COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) rang alarms that governmental structures and systems, including Public Health Systems, 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.
Meanwhile, a growing list of cities and counties in California have been making declarations on racism as a public health emergency or crisis. Under the “Building Towards Antiracist Governments” project, funded by the Blue Shield of California Foundation, CPEHN will convene a community collaborative to research and develop recommendations for state and local governments on how to meaningfully implement antiracist systems changes.