The New York City Board of Health has passed a resolution requesting that the Health Department expand its anti-racism work and setting out actions to do so, after formally declaring racism a public health crisis in 2020.
The resolution requires the department to develop and implement priorities for a racially just recovery from COVID-19, as well as other actions to address racism as a public health crisis in the short and long term.
Included in the actions are that the Health Department research, clarify and acknowledge examples of its historic role in divesting and underinvesting in critical community-led health programs, and participate in a truth and reconciliation process with communities harmed by these actions when possible; that it establish a Data for Equity internal working group to ensure the agency applies an intersectional, anti-racism equity lens to public health data and provide annual guidance to other NYC Mayoral agencies; and that it make recommendations on anti-racism, health-related NYC Charter revisions to the newly established Mayoral Racial Justice Commission.
The NYC Health Department is also required continue collaborations with sister agencies to report on fatalities, injuries, health conditions, by race, gender, and other demographics; perform an anti-racism review of the NYC Health Code in consultation with relevant community organizations; and more.
Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi said to build a healthier New York City, the city must confront racism as a public health crisis.
“The COVID-19 pandemic magnified inequities, leading to suffering disproportionately borne by communities of color in our City and across our nation. But these inequities are not inevitable,” he said.
“Today is an historic day for the country’s oldest Board of Health to officially recognize this crisis and demand action.”
Brooklyn Councilmember Farah N. Louis, who chairs the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addictions, said the board’s declaration was a vital step forward in removing longstanding barriers to quality healthcare for all while rebuilding public trust.
“We need to dedicate more resources to uprooting racism from all public spaces, particularly within health institutions where people of all backgrounds deserve to be seen, heard, treated fairly and with dignity,” she said.
“From mental health to maternal care, Black and Brown New Yorkers have experienced the systemic inequities that exist in patient care within our hospitals and clinics for generations. Before and most notably during the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed the life-threatening and sometimes fatal consequences of prejudice and bias within our society.”
Although the resolution, which goes into effect immediately, is one of more than 200 declarations of racism as a public health crisis nationwide, it is one of the first to tie the declaration to specific remedial actions, the Board of Health said.