Board rules racism a public health crisis in New York City

New York City Board of Health declared, "To build a healthier New York City, we must confront racism as a public health crisis."

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The New York City Board of Health has declared racism a public health crisis. 

The Board adopted a resolution on Monday that acknowledges the impact of racism in health care. The resolution directs the health department to develop a “racially just recovery from COVID-19 and other actions – including resource allocation – to address this public health crisis in the short and long-term.” It also issued guidelines that call on the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to work with other agencies to “address the health impacts of racism” in the city and ensure a “racially just recovery” from the coronavirus pandemic, New York Times reports.

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Other recommendations for the health department include reviewing policies that have “contributed to racial health inequities, making suggestions to the city’s Racial Justice Commission, and forming a “data for equity” group to ensure that the department interprets health data through an anti-racism perspective,” NBC News reports.

The health department must also report deaths and health conditions by race. 

“To build a healthier New York City, we must confront racism as a public health crisis,” the board’s chair, Dr. David A. Chokshi, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic magnified inequalities, leading to suffering disproportionally borne by communities of color in our City and across the nation.”

At a recent board meeting, Dr. Chokshi highlighted the impact of the COVID pandemic on communities of color.

“Why do some nonwhite populations develop severe disease and die from COVID-19 at higher rates than whites?” he said. “Underlying health conditions undoubtedly play a role. But why are there higher rates of hypertension, diabetes and obesity in communities of color? The answer does not lie in biology. Structural and environmental factors such as disinvestment, discrimination, and disinformation underlie a greater burden of these diseases in communities of color.”

Dr. Chokshi added, “The COVID-19 pandemic must render unacceptable that which has been condoned for generations.”

Last year the NYC Health Department acknowledged that “Black and Brown communities face the disproportionate impact, grief and loss from the COVID-19 pandemic on top of the trauma of state sanctioned violence” amid public outcry over the police killing of George Floyd.

The Board of Health released a statement in June 2020 declaring racism a public health crisis.

“The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is committed to addressing structural racism within our own institution and addressing racism as a social determinant of health as part of our mission to protect the health of New Yorkers,” the statement read.

As reported by The Hill, 217 state and local governments have declared racism a public health crisis. Since last year, about 70 cities, roughly three dozen counties, and three states have declared racism a public health crisis, according to the American Public Health Association.

This article contains additional reporting from Associated Press.

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