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CDC declares racism a 'serious public health threat'

Walensky said the agency is using COVID-19 funding to invest in racial and ethnic minority communities, to create a "durable infrastructure" that will improve health equity.

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Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday declared racism a "serious public health threat," that required immediate action.

CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky posted a statement on the agency’s website, citing racism as a cause of "health inequities, health disparities and disease.” She added that the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color.

Walensky continued, "Yet, the disparities seen over the past year were not a result of COVID-19," Walensky wrote. "Instead, the pandemic illuminated inequities that have existed for generations and revealed for all of America a known, but often unaddressed, epidemic impacting public health: racism."

The director added, "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."

The declaration heralded the launch of the CDC’s Racism and Health, whose goal is to study and combat health disparities caused by racism. Walensky said the agency is using COVID-19 funding to invest in racial and ethnic minority communities, to create a "durable infrastructure" that will improve health equity.

Thousands of protesters across the country marched with BLM last summer in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in violation of the CDC’s restrictions on large gatherings claiming that 'systemic racism' was a public health emergency.

Rather than discourage the protests, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last June that institutional racism is a contributing factor to why black communities have suffered disproportionately during the coronavirus pandemic compared to white communities.

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