COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) rang alarms that governmental structures and systems, including public health, were not equipped to address the root causes of health inequities. Racial justice uprisings in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a former police officer in the summer of 2020 reinvigorated public attention and outcry to how systemic racism has been deeply embedded in our public structures and systems, including the public health systems.
Racism baked into institutional, policy, budgetary, and programmatic decisions and the resulting racialized health disparities constitute an ongoing public health crisis that calls for immediate action from governments. On July 14, 2020, the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network and partners signed a letter that urged Governor to declare racism to be a statewide public health crisis. Such declaration would serve as an important first step in the state’s acknowledgment of its own racist history through the present day, and would establish specific commitments and measurable actions that would begin to undo the racism that prevents all Californians, especially the BIPOC community, from achieving optimal health and well-being.
A growing list of cities and counties have been making declarations on racism as a public health emergency or crisis. Under the “Building Towards Antiracist Governments” project, funded by Blue Shield Foundation, CPEHN will convene a community collaborative to research and develop:
- A roadmap for local governments to address racism as a public health crisis by putting the community at the center of policy and decision-making processes, and
- A state policy agenda to enhance the ability of state and local public health leaders – both government and nongovernmental – to meaningfully share power with local communities to implement antiracist systems change.
Together, the roadmap and policy agenda will lay out concrete, actionable steps that state and local governments can take to address racism as a public health crisis and ensure that public systems are responsive to the needs of BIPOC communities.