Racism is something that can be universally agreed upon as bad. People often discuss systemic racism as an abstract concept, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are cementing this idea with their new declaration of racism as a “serious public health threat” that needs to be attended to as soon as possible.
CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky made the statements on Thursday (April 8), citing racism as a titular cause for, “health inequities, health disparities, and disease.” She used racial disparities in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to illustrate this point, but noted that racism had an impact on public health long before coronavirus hit.
“Yet, the disparities seen over the past year were not a result of COVID-19,” Walensky wrote in an official CDC statement. “Instead, the pandemic illuminated inequities that have existed for generations and revealed for all of America have known, but often unaddressed, epidemic impacting public health: racism.
“What we know is this: racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans. As a result, it affects the health of our entire nation. Racism is not just the discrimination against one group based on the color of their skin or their race or ethnicity, but the structural barriers that impact racial and ethnic groups differently to influence where a person lives, where they work, where their children play, and where they worship and gather in community. These social determinants of health have life-long negative effects on the mental and physical health of individuals in communities of color.”
This declaration accompanies the launch of CDC’s Racism and Health, which is an agency-wide initiative aimed to study and combat racial disparities in health. They also aim to develop “durable infrastructure” that will improve health equity in underserved communities.