CDC declares racism ’a serious public health threat’

By Benjamin Din 04/08/2021 06:41 PM EDT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday labeled racism as a serious threat to public health and said it would take steps to address the matter.

“What we know is this: racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans,” Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said in a statement. “As a result, it affects the health of our entire nation.”

Walensky, one of the most public faces of the Biden administration’s coronavirus response, is the latest administration health official to highlight the issue of racism in public health, and the CDC, the nation’s largest public health agency, joins a number of other groups that have done the same. According to the American Public Health Association, more than 170 local and state leaders, as well as public health entities, have declared racism a public health crisis or emergency.

She added that the pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color because of racism, which she defined as structural barriers that have an impact on the ways different racial and ethnic groups live.

“Over generations, these structural inequities have resulted in stark racial and ethnic health disparities that are severe, far- reaching and unacceptable,” she said.

With this declaration, the CDC will take a variety of steps to tackle racism in public health, according to the statement. Walensky said the agency was using Covid funding to invest in communities of color, as well as other disproportionately affected groups, to address the disparities. The agency also added a new section to its website dedicated to racism and health, with the hope of drawing more attention to the issue.

The American Medical Association, which declared racism a public health threat in November, praised the CDC’s announcement.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately plague Black and Brown communities, it’s clear that collective action from all stakeholders is needed to dismantle systemic racism and confront, embed, and advance equity across our health care system,” Susan R. Bailey, the association’s president, said in a statement.

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