Philly Should Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis — And Then Do Something About it

Crisis is a term we often hear in conversations about things we perceive to be of grave danger to our lives or livelihood. When applied to public health, experts have loosely defined a crisis as an issue that affects large numbers of people, threatens those individuals’ health over the long-term, and requires large-scale solutions to resolve. There is no shortage of data that proves racism does all these things and that it has contributed to Black people suffering and dying from hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and a host of other illnesses at higher rates than white people.

Yet, last month, when more than 1,200 employees at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) called on the nation’s chief public health institute to declare racism a public health crisis amid an increasing disparity in attention to the spread of COVID-19 in the Black community, the request largely fell on deaf ears.

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