Posted June 03, 2020 in Articles
Author: Robert Higgs, cleveland.com
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cleveland City Council voted Wednesday to declare racism as a public health crisis, setting the stage for the city to tackle disparities that have led to poorer health outcomes for African Americans in Cleveland.
Once signed by Mayor Frank Jackson, the city will be required under guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to take action to eliminate disparities causing the health issues, according to Councilman Blaine Griffin, one of the resolution’s primary sponsors.
Among the issues: Generational disparities in education, access to jobs, earning power, access to housing, access to health care, home environment and quality of life.
“Now that we understand that we have this public-health crisis, we have to do something about it,” Griffin said during the council meeting. “Whatever we do, we have to make sure that the citizens of this city touch, feel, hear and see real change.”
The legislation formally recognizes racism as a crisis that damages public health, as defined by the World Health Organization, through discrimination.
The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention also has recognized that discrimination has a negative impact on health in a community.
The disparities are tied historically to the impacts of slavery, Jim Crow laws and redlining in neighborhoods, leading to public health issues today.
They have contributed to poorer health outcomes in the black population for conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and infant mortality.
The coronavirus pandemic put those disparities, particularly access to health care, in the spotlight. But it’s an issue that many cities across the country already had been discussing, said Natoya Walker Minor, Mayor Frank Jackson’s chief of public affairs.
Franklin County recently made such a declaration. Akron and Columbus are currently considering similar legislation. The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus announced this week it, too, would introduce legislation at the state level.
Cleveland introduced its resolution in early March.
“The timelines of this couldn’t be more apropos,” Walker Minor told City Council on Wednesday. "This allows us to take a deep dive into structural racism and its health consequences.”
The legislation requires that the city establish inclusive groups to develop strategies for promoting equity and tackling the structures that are causing racial disparities.
Organizations such as the NAACP, the Urban League of Greater Cleveland, United Way of Greater Cleveland, Birthing Beautiful Communities, the YWCA of Greater Cleveland and First Year Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Partnership have voiced their support.
We live in a caring and compassionate community that for decades has worked to address each individual challenge before it. … Racism is real and is harming all people in our community, the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s board said in a letter Wednesday to City Council.
“We have a collective responsibility to facilitate change,” the board said. “The business community has an important role to play and we … plan to be deeply engaged with city leaders in this work.”
Griffin said the work will require participation of people from throughout the community.
“This thing is massive. It’s not like we can just put a seven-member committee in a room and make decision,” Griffin said. “It’s going to take a community effort, and everyone is going to have to own it.”
Original Article: View Online