NYC declares racism a 'public health crisis'

The NYC Board of Health, whose members are primarily appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, passed the resolution on Monday.

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY

The New York City Board of Health has passed a resolution declaring racism to be a "public health crisis." Joining the Biden administration's CDC, which also declared racism to be a public health threat, along with COVID and gun violence, the NYC Board of Health, whose members are primarily appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, passed the resolution on Monday.

This resolution comes with a series of action items, that read like a laundry list of social justice demands that could be painted on protest signs.

The first is all about acknowledgement. The Dept. of Health will, under this new resolution, look at its own contribution to the problem they have identified. They will "research, clarify, and acknowledge examples of its historic role" in not providing enough by way of "community-led health programs." The NYC Dept. of Health will further take responsibility for its own failures by taking part in "a truth and reconciliation process."

Action item two is to establish a new government entity called "Data for Equity," which will undoubtedly require more funding, and will hold the Dept. of Health accountable to applying an "intersectional, anti-racism equity lens to public health data." This means that this new entity will intentionally look at data in a biased way, trying to figure out how the data shows that the Dept. of Health is racist. This new entity will then express their biased views to the mayor's office, and other agencies, so that the biased analysis can be used to drive policy.

Which leads to the third and fourth points, which is that the Health Department will make recommendations to amend official documents, such as the NYC Charter, based on this biased data. They will collaboration "with sister agencies" on this reporting and collection.

The NYC Health code will be overhauled with "existing provisions that support systemic and structural racism and bias" identified and removed, with new provisions written in according to the new bias.

Finally, the Dept. of Health will offer their advice to other agencies to behave similarly to themselves. They will "advise on assessments of structural racism within policies, plans and budgets related to all determinants of health (transportation, education, housing, economic opportunities, civic participation and healthcare delivery contexts) and make recommendations to mitigate harm within a public health context." And they will issue their reports twice per year.

The Dept. of Health cited slavery, which came to an end with the Civil War, and the impact of the pandemic on communities of color. Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said that "To build a healthier New York City, we must confront racism as a public health crisis."

Interestingly, the Dept. of Health has to find the racism before they can take any action against it, since it is neither blatant nor apparent, but seemingly hidden beneath the surface of their existing policies.

The Dept. of Health was already gathering data by racial and gender statistics, which is how it was made known that Hispanics in the city were suffering more from the virus than other racial groups.


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