The New York City Board of Health this week declared racism a public health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate effect on Black, Asian, and Hispanic Americans, the New York Post reports.
The board, whose members are mostly appointed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, approved the resolution on Monday. It tasks the city Health Department with finding a way to root-out racism within the department’s policies and research, and with ensuring “a racially just recovery from COVID-19, as well as other actions to address this public health crisis in the short and long term.”
Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said, “to build a healthier New York City, we must confront racism as a public health crisis,” adding, “the COVID-19 pandemic magnified inequities, leading to suffering disproportionately borne by communities of color in our City and across our nation. But these inequities are not inevitable. Today is an historic day for the country’s oldest Board of Health to officially recognize this crisis and demand action.”
Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes, dean of CUNY’s School of Public Health, said that the move is “a wake-up call. Public health is a mirror. It’s one of the most common ways where racism presents itself.”
El-Mohandes, who has researched racial disparities in the medical field, added, “it’s not comfortable to hear but it’s reality.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously declare structural racism a threat to public health last April.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at the time: “Racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans. As a result, it affects the health of our entire nation. Racism is not just the discrimination against one group based on the color of their skin or their race or ethnicity, but the structural barriers that impact racial and ethnic groups differently to influence where a person lives, where they work, where their children play, and where they gather in community.”
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