“Racism is a Serious Threat to the Public’s Health” Says Rochelle Walensky MD, MPH, Director of the CDC

We’re in the midst of National Public Health Week, where contributions of public health professionals and movements are noted and where we draw attention to the pressing issues central to improving the health of our nation.

This year’s theme is Building Bridges to Better Health and there are daily activities to partake in listed here.

More essentially, today the national Center for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) came out with a sweeping direct statement:

Racism is a Serious Threat to the Public’s Health.

As the foremost public health institution in the land, this fact-based statement by its new director, Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, is a breath of fresh air in laying out the truths and demanding study, collaboration and ongoing work to unwind the long arm of racism and its health impact on individuals and communities. There are links at the bottom of the statement that are also worth reading, which reflect the political, education and membership organizations being on the same page here, so that working across many institutions and areas of expertise can make measurable impact on the disturbing truths related to health inequities.

I hope you will take time to absorb the entire statement and related links. In part it reads:

….Racism — both interpersonal and structural — negatively affects the mental and physical health of millions of people, preventing them from attaining their highest level of health, and consequently, affecting the health of our nation.

A growing body of research shows that centuries of racism in this country has had a profound and negative impact on communities of color. The impact is pervasive and deeply embedded in our society — affecting where one lives, learns, works, worships and plays and creating inequities in access to a range of social and economic benefits — such as housing, education, wealth, and employment. These conditions — often referred to as social determinants of health — are key drivers of health inequities within communities of color, placing those within these populations at greater risk for poor health outcomes.

The data show that racial and ethnic minority groups, throughout the United States, experience higher rates of illness and death across a wide range of health conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, obesity, asthma, and heart disease, when compared to their White counterparts. Additionally, the life expectancy of non-Hispanic/Black Americans is four years lower than that of White Americans. The COVID-19 pandemic, and its disproportionate impact among racial and ethnic minority populations is another stark example of these enduring health disparities…..

Perhaps the dire statistics related to how COVID-19 laid bare our health disparities, but truth be told, COVID-19 only made the issues crystal clear. I love that in her first weeks at the helm of the CDC, Dr. Walensky has ripped the Band Aid off this long-known problem and without pointing fingers, has raised the bar, set the expectation and put together a team strategy to start tackling this unacceptable American reality.

American Association of Naturopathic Physician’s 2017 Physician of the Year. Teacher, writer and advocate for healthy living. www.nhcmed.com

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