April 29, 2021, 4:10 p.m. News Staff — Statements from federal authorities don’t come much more plainspoken than one the CDC issued in April, during National Minority Health Month, calling racism an “epidemic impacting public health.”
“What we know is this,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., said April 8. “Racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans. As a result, it affects the health of our entire nation.”
This new stance answers the Academy’s call last year for regulators “to officially recognize racism as a public health issue and … address the negative impacts racism is having on the physical and mental well-being of millions of people.”
It also toplines a growing consensus among U.S. policymakers. The American Public Health Association is tracking declarations similar to the CDC’s and indicates that some 200 jurisdictions also call racism a public health crisis or emergency.
Walensky, who also is administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, said in this month’s statement that communities of color had been severely and painfully affected by COVID-19. This, too, reflects advocacy efforts by the Academy throughout the pandemic as evidence mounted that COVID-19 was disproportionately affecting minority patients.
Likewise, in February the Academy reminded the administration that family physicians nationwide “bear witness to how institutionalized racism and other structural issues, including public policy, contribute to economic inequality, poor health outcomes and other injustices for marginalized communities.”
The CDC’s April statement accompanied a new initiative called Racism and Health, which the agency intends as a clearinghouse for its research and actions on health equity and racism.
The AAFP’s Center for Diversity and Health Equity serves a similar function for family physicians, gathering resources and publications centered on reducing health disparities in patient care.