COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Franklin County Board of Health has declared racism a public health crisis during its Tuesday meeting.
According to the board citing the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, part of the reason for doing this is the fact that the black community is adversely affected by negative health outcomes. This includes lower life expectancy, higher likeliness to die prematurely, higher rates of infant mortality and more.
“The public health crisis of racism is certainly not a new one,” said Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce. “However, COVID-19 has highlighted the effects of the health divide between black and white Ohioans. The pandemic has exacerbated the health disparities we see as a community and I am glad that Franklin County Public Health is moving forward with a focus on racial equity to improve public health and serve our constituents.”
Franklin County Public Health Commissioner Joe Mazzola says the board will be getting more involved in policy work related to improving health in communities of color and policy work related to fighting racism. He also says they’ll be doing more with organizations working on similar efforts and investing more money in race and equity training.
“The question we now have to face is what are those underlying root causes,” Mazzola said. “They’re the social determinants of health but what’s causing those, and that really is the institutional, structural racism that’s been building for decades and decades and decades.”
The declaration was welcome news to Stephanie Hightower, President and CEO of the Columbus Urban League.
“I applaud Franklin County Public Health that they recognize this but proof is in the pudding,” Hightower said. “How do we as a community come together, recognize it and really look at policies, look at programming in a way that is going to make a difference, not just put a Band-Aid over it.”
According to Mazzola, Franklin County Public Health will also be hiring an Associate Director of Equity and Inclusion, a position they’ve never had before.