King County Board of Health declares racism a crisis

Racism was declared a public health crisis by King County’s Board of Health.

Along with the proclamation, the county’s health authority pledged to work more closely with community leaders to dismantle racism and disparate health effects for communities of color. Social, physical and economic conditions all play a part in determining whether someone thrives, or is unhealthy and dies early.

Derrick Wheeler-Smith, director of the county’s Zero Youth Detention program, said racism is a set of related systems. Disparities in one impact other areas of people’s lives. If the interdependence between different factors isn’t addressed, any solution to increase public health will be unsuccessful.

Part of the process for improving health is understanding historical data, and how the past affects people of color now.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the county has taken some steps to be more effective in its outreach. This includes providing culturally appropriate services during screening and testing, and conducting anti-racism training for health care providers. Information materials has been produced in 33 languages. The county is also working with community health clinics and other organizations throughout the county.




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