VOA NEWS, WASHINGTON – A year into the coronavirus pandemic that is disproportionately ravaging African American lives both physically and economically, efforts are underway to target racism as a public health crisis that shortens lives and costs millions of dollars.
“Systemic racism defines the Black experience in our nation,” said Virginia Democratic State Delegate Lashrecse Aird, who co-sponsored a resolution approved by lawmakers in February that makes Virginia the first state in the South to declare racism a public health crisis.
“It provides the framework for all of us to formally and finally reckon with those injustices so we can build a more equitable and just society for all,” Aird said in a statement to VOA.
The Virginia resolution cites more than 100 studies that link racism to negative health outcomes.
The research indicates the cumulative experience of racism throughout a person’s life can induce chronic stress and health conditions that may lead to otherwise preventable deaths.
Overall life expectancy for African Americans is nearly 3 ½ years shorter than for white people.
“Virginians of color, especially Black Virginians, deserve no further delay of the Commonwealth’s public recognition of this centuries-old crisis,” Robert Barnette Jr., president of the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP, told VOA in a virtual news conference.
“We know systemic racism manifests itself as a determinant to public health through persistent racial disparities in all areas of our lives,” he said.
The Virginia resolution would create a watchdog agency to promote policies that address systemic racism and its impact on public health.
It requires state elected officials, their staff, and state employees to undergo training to recognize racism. Community engagement throughout the state will also be promoted to detect racism.
The legislation is a big step for lawmakers in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, and a state with a checkered history of racially discriminatory and segregationist activities. Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to approve the declaration soon.
Virginia joins Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and dozens of municipalities that have issued similar nonbinding resolutions in the last year.
However, some communities are hoping to use the measures to direct additional funding for research and grants to support intervention programs … Click source below to read more.