Why is now the time to declare Racism a Public Health Crisis?

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Why is now the time to declare Racism a Public Health Crisis?

Categories: Advocacy

YWCA Tri-County’s Day on Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill Day is a national day of action where sister associations from over two hundred YWCAs nationwide come together to form State delegations to educate Congress about the critical issues impacting communities that we serve and live in. Capitol Hill Day on June 17, 2021, was notably different from past years due to the pandemic as the event was conducted virtually.

Many of us have been forced to adapt to a new virtual normal and “pivot” we did! We unified our voices to call on our legislators to support policy and legislation that would implement significant and necessary change for the communities we serve.

This year’s critical ask was centered around declaring racism a public health crisis and urging our legislators to support and pass S.Res.172 and H. Res.344. across the nation. The declaration of racism as a public health crisis has already been established in the states of Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. As the Manager of Equity Initiatives for the YWCA Tri-County Area and one of the many sisters in my delegation, my meetings were with Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, Senator Pat Toomey, and Congresswoman Madeleine Dean. Capitol Hill, as you can imagine, is a very busy place so on this day many of us met with staff while legislators were on the Hill casting votes. Our collective call to action was no less felt by staff, who were gracious, informed, and appreciative of the many issues brought before them.

Racism is a Public Health Crisis

My conversation with Mr. Yannick Gill, staff member for Congresswoman Madeleine Dean’s office, was a stand-out conversation. As I presented the issues facing our congresswoman’s constituency, I could sense the genuine concern he had as he listened to the alarming statistics presented, such as:

  • Black babies are 2.6 times more likely to die when compared to the rate of white babies in the county.
  • Pottstown ranks highest in the percentage of adults 18-64 who are uninsured.
  • When we look at other social determinants of health, such as mental health factors like childhood trauma -19% of adults have reported they have experienced 4 or more adverse childhood experiences, increasing mental health risk factors and greater need for support.
  • Pottstown residents ranked the lowest in social capital (46%) compared to neighboring Perkiomen Valley (85%) and the Tri-County area overall (75%). Presenting a greater need for greater access to supportive and educational resources.

The data is clear and has been for years – In Pennsylvania, health disparities in Black and Brown communities vastly differ from experiences noted in predominantly white communities. Covid- 19 exposed this reality. No single health issue facing society made it clearer than the pandemic we all experienced together – but altogether differently.

Pass S.Res.172 and H. Res.344

The pandemic has brought racism and its many societal ills to the forefront of legislative action with laser focus, and there is no time like now to declare racism a public health crisis in Pennsylvania and across the nation. This pronouncement is the necessary first step toward reconciling the disparities that have been exacerbated by systemic injustice and inequitable access to resources that uplift and support the needs of the socioeconomically disadvantaged communities of color. YWCA’s mission to eliminate racism is deeply in tune with the needs of the communities we serve. Capitol Hill Day was an opportunity to leverage our collective voices and demand that this declaration be a catalyst toward appropriate allocation of resources to communities most in need.

It was an honor to stand united as one- YWCA on Capitol Hill Day before the legislature. We urge you constituents, and law makers to act now on behalf of fellow neighbors, friends, and marginalized communities, call for the support and passing of S.Res.172 and H. Res.344. – declaring racism, a public health crisis once and for all.

Contact Diana Gonzalez, Manager of Equity Initiatives, at diana.gonzalez@ywcatricountyarea.org or call 610-323-1888 ext. 419