The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday became the largest US health agency to identify racism as a “serious threat to public health” and to commit to taking action to mitigate its effects.
Launching an initiative called Racism and Health, the CDC identified racism as a “root” cause of “health inequalities, health disparities and disease.” COVID-19, the agency noted on its website, has highlighted this fact. The coronavirus pandemic has been felt “most severely” in communities of color, which have seen a disproportionate number of cases and deaths, the CDC said.
As the nation’s leading public health agency, the CDC has also recognized the “critical role” it must play in addressing the health effects of racism.
The agency said it was determined to tackle this systemic problem by taking a number of steps, including continuing to study the effects of racism on health outcomes, using COVID-19 funding to address disparities in minority communities linked to coronavirus and other health issues, and increase diversity within the agency itself.
In an interview with Time magazine, CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky said that while this is not the first time the agency has recognized the link between racism and health inequalities, its new initiative marks a shift in focus for the CDC from observation. to action.
“The word racism is intentional in this [initiative] for the CDC. It’s not just about the color of your skin, but also about where you live, where you work, where your kids play, where you pray, how you get to work, what jobs you have. All of these things contribute to people’s health and their health opportunities, ”Walensky told the magazine.
Walensky, who became director of the CDC in January, added that she made it clear to her employees that racism must be tackled agency-wide.
“It has to be baked in the cake; it has to be part of what everyone does, ”she said.
As NBC News noted, dozens of other public health agencies and medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association, have identified racism as a threat to public health in recent months.
“[Racism] has a negative impact and exacerbates health inequalities among historically marginalized communities, ”said Willarda Edwards, WADA Board Member, in November. “Without systemic and structural change, health inequalities will continue to exist and the overall health of the nation will suffer.”
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