Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi (pictured) acknowledged in a statement that people of color have experienced ‘inequalities’ and COVID-19 ‘magnified’ it
The New York City’s Department of Health passed a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis in the city, setting the groundwork for an anti-racism agenda after the board pointed to the impact the pandemic has had on minorities on the nation’s history of slavery.
The resolution was approved Monday by an 11-member board whose members are largely appointed by outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio.
‘To build a healthier New York City, we must confront racism as a public health crisis,’ Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi said in a statement.
‘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,’ he said.
The resolution will expand the Health Department’s anti-racism work within the city, including establishing a Data for Equity internal working group to ensure the city applies an ‘equality’ lens when offering guidance on public health and improving data on race, gender, and other demographics more accurately by working with sister organizations.
The Board of Health passed the landmark decision on Monday after declaring racism a public health crisis back in June 2020 following the death of George Floyd. The department outlined their ‘actions’ on Twitter, writing that they plan to acknowledge the departments ‘historic role’ in underinvesting in community-led health programs and conducting an anti-racism review of its health code, among other things
In the wake of Floyd’s death, the Health Department acknowledged that ‘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’
Chokshi said the decision ‘officially recognized’ the crisis and it ‘demanded action.’
The resolution also recognized the ‘disproportionate drop in life expectancy for black and Latino New Yorkers’ and ‘inequitably low rates of COVID-19 vaccination’ among black and Latino Americans.
According to the NYC Health Department, only 43 percent of black residents are fully vaccinated and 56 percent Hispanics and Latinos. The Asian-American population is leading the vaccination rate at 79 percent, with those identifying as white at 51 percent.
The new Take Care New York initiative will help expand the ‘comprehensive health plan for NYC,’ that will ‘advance anti-racism public health practice, reduce health inequities, and strengthen NYC’s’ approach to help all New Yorkers, regardless of race or gender, to realize their full health potential.
In addition, the resolution pointed out the ‘racial inequities in rates of HIV, tuberculosis, maternal mortality, infant mortality, mental health conditions, chronic disease prevalence and mortality, gun violence and other forms of physical violence’ as well as ‘anti-Asian violence.’
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene declared racism a public health crisis in June 2020 following the death of George Floyd, citing that in the city ‘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 outlined their ‘actions’ on Twitter, writing that they plan to acknowledge the departments ‘historic role’ in underinvesting in community-led health programs and conducting an anti-racism review of its health code.
‘The murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers is part of the system of racism that permits police brutality, unjust policing and mass incarceration,’ the department wrote in June.
They declared they were ‘committed to addressing structural racism’ to ‘protect the health of New Yorkers.’
‘We have chosen our words carefully this afternoon in presenting this to you as a resolution — rather than just a declaration — because we must be resolute,’ Chokshi said at the board meeting. ‘We must resolve to take action beyond our recognition of the problem.’
There are more than 200 declarations of racism as public health crisis across the US, including from the CDC. However, New York City’s is one of the first to tie action to its declaration, according to the NYC Department of Health.
Milwaukee County, Wisconsin was the first to declare racism as a public health crisis in 2018. As of August 2021, 209 declarations have been passed in 37 states, according to the American Public Health Association.
The City of Chicago recently passed their own declaration in June of this year and allocated $10 million in COVID relief funding to combat it. New York did not disclose a dollar amount.