On April 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared that racism is a serious public health threat and stated that it would be taking specific action to address the issue. The declaration comes as the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted communities of color, has laid bare the racial health disparities in the United States. The announcement also echoes declarations at the state and local level, where counties across the country have declared racism a public health crisis or emergency and are working to further efforts to address the current impact of race on resident health outcomes, status and quality of life. Last July, NACo membership passed a policy resolution declaring racism a national public health crisis paralleling the CDC’s announcement.
Communities of color in counties across the country are disproportionately impacted by a multitude of socioeconomic and public health challenges, which are often rooted in individual, systemic and institutional inequities. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges, revealing racial disparities in health outcomes and access to care in the U.S.
Acknowledging the CDC’s critical role in addressing the impact of racism on public health, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky stated that the agency will:
- Study the impact of social determinants on health outcomes, expand the body of evidence on how racism affects health and propose and implement solutions to address this;
- Using COVID-19 funding, make new and expanded investments in racial and ethnic minority communities and other disproportionately affected communities, establishing a durable infrastructure to provide the foundation and resources to address disparities related to COVID-19 and other health conditions;
- Expand internal agency efforts to foster greater diversity; and
- Launch a new “Racism and Health” web portal as part of an ongoing commitment to serve as a catalyst for public and scientific discourse around racism and health, to be held accountable for progress.
Counties welcome the action items included in the CDC declaration as a first step in accomplishing the goals outlined in the NACo policy resolution, which urges the federal government to assert the impact of racial bias on health through the development of relevant policies aimed at improving health and economic opportunity in communities of color and that support state and local initiatives that advance social justice.
Counties support the majority of America’s approximately 2,800 local health departments and are stewards of our residents’ health, safety and quality of life. As such, county leaders are well positioned to act to address and prevent health inequities that have contributed to this ongoing public health crisis. NACo stands ready to work with the CDC to implement and advance the agency’s action items outlined in this declaration.
- NACo Resource Page: County Resources on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
- NACo Blog: CDC, HHS Announce Multiple Grant Programs to Improve Vaccine and Health Equity
- NACo Blog: Health legislation to focus on equity, social determinants of health
- NACo Blog: Ways and Means Democrats release legislative framework addressing county priorities for health and economic equity