New York City Declares Racism A Public Health Crisis

The New York City Board of Health passed a resolution that includes a list of action items for the city’s health department.

The New York City Board of Health declared racism a public health crisis Monday and passed a resolution that recognizes the impact racism has had on people of color.

The board called on the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to take steps that will ensure a “racially just recovery” from the coronavirus pandemic.

“The pandemic magnified inequities, leading to suffering disproportionately borne by communities of color,” New York City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said on Twitter Monday.

Chokshi’s post also included a graphic that outlined some of the directives tied to the resolution, which includes making recommendations to the newly established mayoral Racial Justice Commission and forming a “data for equity” group, designed to ensure the department interprets health data through an “anti-racism equity lens” and teaches fellow departments how to do the same.

The Board of Health oversees the health code, which is enforced by the city’s health department. The resolution builds on a statement made by the health department in June 2020 amid nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism.

“In NYC, 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,” the department said then.

As of August 2021, more than 200 similar declarations have been made in municipalities and agencies across the United States, according to The American Public Health Association. Yet, according to the organization, 23 of these declarations only include one action — while 32 include none whatsoever.

New York City’s Board of Health listed several specific actions tied to its declaration in a press release. These include working with other agencies to beef up data by reporting deaths, injuries and health conditions by race; pinpointing and amending policies that have contributed to racial health disparities; and plans and budgets on a wide range of matters that affect health like transportation, education, housing and economic opportunities.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also called attention to the link between race and health in April — calling it “serious public health threat.” It was the largest health agency in the U.S. to call out racism as a “fundamental” cause of “health inequities, health disparities and disease,” and noted that the pandemic emphasized that.