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Racism declared a New York City public health crisis

The New York City Board of Health's resolution aims to recognize "this crisis and demand action," said Dr. David A. Chokshi, the chair of the board.
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The New York City Board of Health has declared racism a public health crisis and issued guidelines to achieve a more "racially just" recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

"To build a healthier New York City, we must confront racism as a public health crisis," the board's chair, Dr. David A. Chokshi, the commissioner of the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said in a statement. "The Covid-19 pandemic magnified inequalities, leading to suffering disproportionally borne by communities of color in our City and across the nation."

The health inequalities along racial lines are not inevitable, and the resolution, which the board adopted Monday, was meant to recognize "this crisis and demand action," Chokshi said.

The board also offered recommendations for the health department.

They include reviewing how policies have contributed to racial health inequities, making suggestions to the city's Racial Justice Commission and forming a "data for equity" group to ensure that the department interprets health data through an anti-racism perspective. Other recommendations include working with agencies to report deaths and health conditions by race and issuing a progress report to the board about the resolution twice a year.

The Board of Health oversees the health code enforced by the health department, which released a statement declaring racism a public health crisis on June 8, 2020.

"The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is committed to addressing structural racism within our own institution and addressing racism as a social determinant of health as part of our mission to protect the health of New Yorkers," the statement read.

Other municipalities and agencies throughout the country have acknowledged a link between racism and public health.

The American Public Health Association reported that from 2019 to October 2020, about 70 cities, three dozen counties and three states declared racism a public health crisis.

Kansas City, Missouri, and Indianapolis used their declarations to determine how to dispense public funding. The mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, a predominantly white community of about 40,000 residents, used a declaration to make Juneteenth a paid city employee holiday. The Minnesota House passed a resolution vowing to "actively participate in the dismantling of racism."

A study this month led by researchers with the National Cancer Institute concluded Covid-19 killed a disproportionate number of Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans last year and exacerbated health disparities among the groups.

In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called racism a "serious threat" to public health, becoming the largest U.S.-based health agency to single out racism as having a "profound and negative impact on communities of color" and contributing to disproportionate mortality rates.