St. Joseph County Health Department declares racism as a public health crisis

Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 11:35 PM EDT
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The St. Joseph County Health Department declared racism as a public health crisis at a meeting Wednesday night.

The resolution passed 7-0.

The health department said historically some have had a mindset that racism is only a social problem, but claims it goes beyond that.

“Racism is defined variably as a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of how one looks, that unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities,” said president Heidi Beidinger.

The department said health inequities create many problems and are due to systemic racism.

“And whereas racism adversely affects lifelong health outcomes beginning even before birth and whereas racism creates inequities; and harms individuals and communities by causing unequal access to quality education, employment, livable wages, healthy foods, stable and affordable housing, and safe and sustainable communities,” Beidinger said.

According to the health department, this, therefore, raises the risk of emotional and physical health problems, including depression and even death.

“Whereas black life expectancy in St. Joseph County is five years less than white life expectancy,” Beidinger said.

The board says it will:

Commit to an open discussion about race.

Integrate discussions into daily work.

Provide educational opportunities for staff on matters of racism.

Promote greater diversity on the board.

Have more accountability.

Partner with the community to reduce health disparities.

Provide mobile crisis intervention.

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