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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

These Lawmakers Introduced A Bill Declaring Racism A Public Health Crisis

A team of Democrats has introduced legislation to declare racism as a national public health crisis.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Barbara Lee collaborated on Thursday to announce a bill titled “The Anti-Racism in Public Health Act of 2020.” The anti-racism bill is an unprecedented act that would convene and create national centers to research health disparities related to bigotry, according to ABC affiliate WCVB.

The trio cited the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and the swell of social justice protests as reasons to consider approving the motion.

In August, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared racism a public health issue and announced a state advisory committee to address issues affecting the Black community, as Blavity previously reported.

Michigan joined 18 other states that has at least one county that has made a similar declaration. King County in Washington has committed to an Anti-Racism Crisis Response Bill of Rights that support communities of color and aims to end the legacy of racism. While in Burlington, Vermont, a public health equity manager has been consulted to help the city in its fight against the issue. 

“It is time we start treating structural racism like we would treat any other public health problem or disease: investing in research into its symptoms and causes and finding ways to mitigate its effects,” Warren said. “My bill with Representatives Lee and Pressley is a first step to create anti-racist federal health policy that studies and addresses disparities in health outcomes at their roots.”

The politicians said the coronavirus outbreak has highlighted racial disparities that need to be addressed. Nationwide, communities of color are being hit the hardest, according to NPR. In Boston, Black and Latinx communities make up 65% of the COVID-19 cases but account for just 40% of the population.

“COVID-19 has exposed the injustices in health outcomes for Black and Brown people, and it’s no coincidence,” Lee told the Root. “In addition to addressing the lasting impacts of systemic racism in criminal justice, economic inequality and the like, we must also commit resources to understanding racially unjust health outcomes.”

A motivating factor behind the bill is the federal government's inefficiency in collecting data related to race for COVID-19 cases, the Democrats said.

"With the COVID-19 pandemic unveiling and exacerbating racial disparities in health outcomes, it is time we recognize and treat structural racism and police brutality as the public health crises that they are," Pressley said in a statement.

If it is accepted as law, the act would create two new initiatives within the CDC.

The bill would be instituted to declare racism a public health concern while leading research on the issue. Another priority of the center would be educating the public on the "health impacts of structural racism and anti-racist public health interventions.”

A Law Enforcement Violence Prevention Program would also be created within the CDC to combat police brutality and institutional racism with law enforcement agencies. It would work to eliminate “deaths, injury, trauma, and negative mental health effects from police presence and interactions.”

“We must have a coordinated public health response to structural racism, and this bill would do just that,” Pressley said.



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