Marion Public Health Declares Racism a Public Health Issue

By June 25, 2020News

Marion Public Health’s mission is to create a culture of health by ensuring all people have the opportunity to reach their greatest health potential at every stage of life.  Health equity is at the core of our mission and means that we call attention to systemic barriers so that all people have the ability to lead healthy lives, regardless of race, economic status, education attainment, or other factors that currently prevent people from being as healthy as they can be.  Health disparities exist in Marion County and across the globe

The recent murders of African Americans George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, have captured the hearts and minds of our country, from LA to Marion to New York.  This attention provides an opportunity to shed light on the health disparities caused by racism and social injustice.   Marion Public Health is following other local, state, and national health departments in declaring racism a public health issue.

Racism causes a lifetime of trauma and stress that leads to unnecessary suffering and premature death.  For example, African Americans are faced with higher rates of pregnancy complications, maternal mortality, infant mortality, and chronic disease.  All of this is preventable through culturally competent public health strategies and access to public health.

Racism is a structural system in which communities of color such as African Americans are unfairly disadvantaged, while white Americans are unfairly given advantages, based on a social interpretation of how one looks or is valued as a human being.  Racism influences all areas of life, including housing, education, employment, access to healthy foods; and access to healthcare.

Racism is a root cause of health disparity. When groups of people are deliberately marginalized or their needs go unaddressed, poor health follows.  Addressing this root cause by intentionally turning our attention to it will lead to improved health outcomes.  Working to end these disparities will improve the health of all people in Marion County, regardless of race, economic status, or educational attainment.  When we improve the health of our disadvantaged citizens, the health of everyone improves.  Marion Public Health is committed to achieving health equity by addressing the social determinants of health that impact the African American community, communities of color, and all of us in Marion. To achieve health equity and racial equity we plan on implementing three strategies:

  1. Provide training to the staff of Marion Public Health in areas such as minority health; public health social justice programs; and listening with intent to understand how social justice impacts the Marion community
  2. Serve on a task force aimed at discussing racial health inequities in Marion’s African American community with plans to create culturally competent ways to improve health outcomes.
  3. Create community health assessments that oversample the African American and Latinx/o/a communities in Marion.