Wake County Commissioners declare racism a public health crisis

Six weeks after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Wake County Commissioners are poised to pass a resolution that acknowledges the harm racism and discrimination poses to individuals and our community.

Commissioners will vote on a resolution at Monday’s meeting that details how racism perpetuates poverty through intentional and unintentional policies, creating barriers to upward mobility.

Here are two excerpts:

WHEREAS, structural racism has resulted in race as a social determinant of health,
with persistent racial disparities in housing and food security, criminal justice, education,
healthcare, employment, worker protections, climate, and technology; and that data
shows race, income, and ZIP Code have a bigger impacts on health than behavior,
medical care, or genetic code; and

WHEREAS, social determinants of health have a disproportionate impact on communities of color, including food deserts, lack of safe places to recreate, lack of mental health services and lack of equitable educational and career opportunities;

WHEREAS, the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed systemic issues in our
society related to health access, housing and food insecurity. As of June 30th
, our Latinx/Hispanic population makes up about 10% of our population but 45% of our
confirmed cases. Our Black population comprises 20% of our population but 24% of our
confirmed cases. Accordingly, Black and Latinx/Hispanic persons account for
approximately 30% of Wake County’s population but yet 69 % of our confirmed cases;
and

WHEREAS, Wake County strives to serve vulnerable populations in an equitable
manner–as demonstrated by our investments in public education, housing affordability, social and economic vitality programs, and our recent initiatives on maternal and infant mortality, the WakeWorks program, and Live Well Wake–we are committed to the ending systemic racism and discrimination in our communities; and

WHEREAS, Wake County is a model employer, providing benefits such as parental
leave, paid family illness leave, a living wage policy, in addition to strong health
insurance and retirement benefits, which help lower-income and underserved populations. In the pursuit of social justice, Wake County has also enacted policies
such as “Ban the Box” and a strong anti-discrimination and equal employment
opportunity policy; and

WHEREAS, although there is no epidemiologic definition of “public health crisis,” the
health impacts of racism clearly exemplify the definition proposed by experts from the Boston University School of Public Health, which is that “The problem must affect large numbers of people, it must threaten health over the long-term, and it must require the adoption of large scale solutions”; and

NOW, THEREFORE, THE WAKE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS RESOLVES that racism is a pubic health crisis and must be treated with the same urgency and funding as any other public health crisis. The Wake County Board of Commissioners is committed to dismantling racism and discrimination by promoting racial equity through board goals and policies developed through a lens of diversity, inclusion, and equity and encourages other local, state, and federal entities to do the
same.

Read the full resolution on racism here.

Board members are also expected to approve a second resolution at the meeting that would adopt Juneteenth (June 19th) as an official holiday. If approved, the holiday will become a paid day off for all county employees.

Juneteenth commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States.

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