The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared racism a “serious threat” to public health for Black people, saying racism leads to increased obesity, infant mortality, maternal mortality and covid-19 mortality for millions of Americans.
The CDC is the latest and largest U.S. health agency to single out racism as having a “profound and negative impact” on Black people.
Others that have recently linked racism to disease and higher death rates among African Americans include the American Public Health Association (APHA). Virginia became the first southern U.S. state to declare racism a public health crisis, and Vermont, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin have linked racism to disease and death.
“The pandemic illuminated inequities that have existed for generations and revealed for all of America a known, but often unaddressed, epidemic impacting public health: racism,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in a statement. “… racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the wellbeing of millions of Americans. As a result, it affects the health of our entire nation.”
The covid-19 pandemic in 2020 underlined the health disparities among Black communities and increased the need more than ever before for states and organizations to address racism as a public health emergency, according to MIT researchers.
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Data from the CDC shows that one in every 792 Black Americans died in connection to the coronavirus — about three times the rate of white people.
“Racism is literally killing Black and brown people. It’s a public health crisis, and it’s beyond time to treat it as such,” said Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison of Austin, Texas, which declared racism a public health crisis in July 2020.
“The inequities are countless, and they aren’t because African Americans are inherently inferior. They are the fruits of generations’ worth of explicitly discriminatory and racist policies.”