Silence is Violence protest sign near Black Lives Matter street signAcross the country, states and localities are declaring racism a public health crisis, with many adopting the resolutions in response to the outcry over police violence. 

To keep track of the growing number, APHA is compiling a list of states, cities and counties that make such declarations, with a goal of providing a resource for those hoping to do the same in their communities.

While some of the declarations are more symbolic, many outline concrete steps to combat racism. For example, in Windsor, Connecticut, officials adopted a resolution that includes periodic reports to the town council on progress toward equity. 

“These kinds of declarations are important first steps in recognizing racism as the root of persistent inequities and disparate outcomes across sectors, from law enforcement and policing to education, housing and health care,” said Tia Taylor Williams, MPH, director of APHA’s Center for Public Health Policy. 

The declarations vary across communities, with many calling on fellow officials and nongovernmental organizations to declare racism a public health crisis, while others combine with statements condemning police violence.

Some resolutions emphasize an equity-in-all-policies approach and explicitly call out the historic and systemic racism that harms the health of Black Americans. A number of resolutions call for the collection of data on health inequities. 

In Boston, for example, Mayor Martin Walsh’s June declaration was accompanied by an announcement that the city would redirect $12 million from police overtime funds to equity and inclusion efforts across the city, including millions in new funds for the Boston Public Health Commission.

Other examples include declarations that establish equity task forces, commit to addressing stark health and economic disparities in Black communities and address the needs of youth. 

Visit APHA to access and bookmark the new resource page and email us to submit a declaration from your community. 

Written by Bianca Shah

Photo from June 2020 Washington, D.C., protest by Susan Polan