LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Similar to the resolution that the City of Lafayette passed earlier this month, the Tippecanoe County Commissioners approved a resolution that declared racism as a public health crisis in Tippecanoe County, Ind.
The resolution aims to address several societal aspects reportedly affecting minority communities more than white residents.
Specifically, to address how social and material factors can influence a person’s health, which includes employment, housing, education, health care, public safety and food access – known to have a life-long health impact.
“The upshot of the resolution is that racism is a public health issue. The resolution outlines the statistics that in a number of ways in which race correlated with a number of negative health outcomes and metrics. And the county along with the cities are resolving the issue of focus, collect data on the disparities, commit resources to reducing the disparities,” said Doug Masson, Tippecanoe County’s attorney.
The resolution referred to several statistics gathered by the YWCA of Greater Lafayette to help illustrate the need for this resolution.
In Tippecanoe County, 11.5% of Black and 19% of Latinx residents do not have health insurance coverage, as compared to 9.3% of White residents
In Tippecanoe County, the median infant mortality rate is 14.6 per 1,000 Black, Multiracial and Latinx births compared to 6.1% of White births
In Tippecanoe County, the average median household income is $28,191 for Black households compared to $56,684 for non-Latinx White households
In Tippecanoe County, 40.4% of Black and 19.5% of Latinx residents live in poverty compared to 15.6% of White residents
In Tippecanoe County, 9.4% of Latinx and 11.07% of Black residents 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree or higher, as compared to 22.6% of white residents
In Tippecanoe County, among people employed full-time in Tippecanoe County the employment rate for White citizens is 63.9% compared to the 44.3% for Asian American and Pacific Islander citizens
“We as a community, we’re all — I mean when both cities and the county — are all in agreement with it, then I think that’s the easiest way to do it. When the health department comes in and pretty much backs it, it’s like OK, there must be some facts by it,” said Dave Byers, the president of the Tippecanoe County commissioners.
Dr. Gregory Loomis, the Tippecanoe County Health Department county health officer, commented on the importance of the resolution.
“I think what we need to do is, we’ve passed the resolution, but now we need to do something about it," Loomis said. "For example, one of the things that I’d like to initiate in the health department is DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) training. We’d be the first health department in the state to initiate DEI training and I think that is very important.”
“I’ve been a professor at the med school for the last five years and my wife is a nursing professor at Purdue. We try to bring up to the first and second medical students the disparities and racial applications of medicine.
“The classic example that I give is the number of African-American males in med schools today is about the same that it was about 30 years ago. So, that in of itself is a huge disparity when our medical school student classes aren’t reflecting the population at large.
“The number of black children that are dying is almost 50 percent of the number, when they make up about 15 to 18 percent of the population. And I can go on and on and on, but these are the things that we are concerned about.”
“To make people aware that these issues exist, and we can’t put blinders on them anymore. One of the things that she was talking about in her presentation was that the issue is very uncomfortable.
“It’s very uncomfortable because it hasn’t been addressed sooner than this, that’s what’s uncomfortable. And that’s one of my passions is to try and have the health department out there to be seen as an equal dispenser of health care to everyone and protection of your health.”
By approving the resolution the commissioners plan on following several sections outlined in the resolution.
Section 1. That the Board declares racism to be a public health crisis in Tippecanoe County, Indiana that affects all members of our community and deserves action from all levels of government and civil society.
Section 2. That the County commits to frank and open discussions on issues of race, racial disparities, and inequalities.
Section 3. That the County and its Departments will address racial inequalities by investing, as much as possible, in disadvantaged neighborhoods and those neighborhoods whose residents suffer most from racial disparities.
Section 4. That the County will review current policies and procedures for the express purpose of eradicating implicit and explicit racial bias.
Section 5. That the County should immediately access all available tools to eliminate disparities based on race, place, or identity across key indicators of success, including health, education, criminal justice, the environment, employment and the economy.
Section 6. The County will create a plan to collect data regarding racial disparities in department staffing, contracting, and all additional extensions of the County government with the purpose of incorporating racial equity into the analysis of governmental action.
Section 7. That the County will collaborate with additional key stakeholders within the community to assist them in incorporating the above-listed practices into their businesses.
With both Lafayette and the Tippecanoe County Commissioners approving this resolution, the last local government to address the topic is the City of West Lafayette. The city is expected to vote on the issue at next month's meeting.
Noe Padilla is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email him at Npadilla@jconline.com and follow him on Twitter at 1NoePadilla.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Tippecanoe County commissioners also issue resolution on racism