This post was contributed by our Development Intern, Aneeqah.
Declaring Racism as a Public Health Crisis
Racism in the United States not only affects the way people are treated, but also overall public health for communities of color. Factors such as income inequality and discrimination often leads to people of color not receiving adequate health care.
For example, the infant mortality rate is 10.8 per 1,000 Black births, compared to 4.6 for white births. Black women are 3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. This disparity affects Black mothers all across the socioeconomic spectrum, and is a byproduct of racial discrimination in the healthcare industry. Additionally, American Indian and Alaska Native women are 2.3 times as likely as white women to die from pregnancy-related causes. Moreover, between 2017 and 2018, 14.7% of Native American, 12.5% of Latinx and 11.7% of Black adults were diagnosed with diabetes, as compared to 7.5% of white adults. The dismissal of health concerns faced by people of color by healthcare providers has severely impacted the overall well-being of their communities at large.
The pay gap is often regarded as its own form of racial and gender discrimination, but it also affects public health. On average, Latinx women are paid just 55 cents, Native American women 60 cents, Black women 63 cents, and Asian American and Pacific Islander women from 52-85 cents per every dollar earned by a white non-Hispanic male for the same work. This wealth disparity means that people of color are often not able to afford the same level of health care as white Americans. Additionally, disparities in financial opportunities factor into environmental determinants of health, like where an individual lives, which influences quality of air, drinking water, access to recreational spaces and healthy groceries.
It’s also not only physical health that’s at risk. The everyday discrimination that minorities face, such as the increased risk of violent policing and hate crimes, can create racial trauma and negatively impact mental health.
All of these factors, among others, have long-term negative effects on the physical and mental health of people of color. So what can we do about it?
In order to stand up for racial justice, it is imperative that the US Government declare racism a public health crisis. This is the aim of Senate Resolution 172 and House Resolution 344, which if passed, would help promote efforts to address the health disparities that people of color all over the nation face due to racism. Addressing systemic racism in all aspects of society is a necessary step in working towards eliminating racism as a public health crisis.