Sacramento County Officials Vote To Declare Racism A Public Health Crisis

Sacramento County Officials Vote To Declare Racism A Public Health Crisis

Sacramento County Officials Vote To Declare Racism A Public Health Crisis. Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding from Pexels

Racism is a public health crisis, Sacramento County officials have decided. 

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted almost unanimously on Nov. 17, declaring that racism is a public health crisis. The one exception was District 4 Supervisor Sue Frost who said she does not view the U.S. as a racist country. The motion was spearheaded by District 1 Supervisor Phil Serna.

The resolution requires the county to eliminate any policies that harbor racial discrimination, KCRA reported.

“The events this summer with the tragic murder of George Floyd and others really caused a lot of rightful introspection by many of us in elective office to understand how much work there is left to do to confront racism generally, but, especially as it relates to public health,” said Serna, who was elected to serve a third term on the board in June 2018.

Sacramento is one of a growing number of cities moving to approve similar resolutions, especially in 2020 during the covid-19 pandemic which has highlighted racial health discrepancies

Local and state leaders are declaring racism a public health crisis or emergency around the country, American Public Health Association reported. “These declarations are an important first step in the movement to advance racial equity and justice and must be followed by allocation of resources and strategic action.”

Milwaukee is considered the most segregated in the U.S. and among the worst places for Black residents because of disparities in income, housing, and incarceration rates. In 2018, Milwaukee also had among the highest mortality rates for Black residents in the country and the highest-in-the-nation infant mortality rate for Black infants, The Washington Post reported.

Milwaukee in May 2019 became the first U.S. city to declare racism a public health crisis.

Since then, other cities have passed similar resolutions. In addition to Sacramento, California cities including Los Angeles, Long Beach, Palm Springs and Santa Barbara have also declared racism a public health issue.  Denver and cities in Connecticut, Florida, Chicago, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania have done the same, among others.

Dekalb County in Georgia and New York City passed their own resolutions, while Arizona approved a statewide resolution.

There has been a push for a federal resolution. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) on Sept. 3 introduced the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act, a bill that would formally identify systemic racism as a public health crisis.

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The bill would create a National Center for Anti-Racism within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop anti-racist federal health policies. It would also launch programs within the CDC’s Center for Injury Prevention and Control aimed at preventing violence by law enforcement, The Washington Post reported.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are co-sponsors of the bill.

“For far too long, our federal government has failed to recognize and address the structural racism that has devastated Black and brown communities and denied access to quality health care,” Pressley said in a Sept. 3 statement.