Hennepin County Declares Racism A 'Public Health Crisis'

William Bornhoft

HENNEPIN COUNTY, MN — The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners Tuesday passed a resolution declaring racism a "public health crisis." County officials noted that "due to racism, Black, Indigenous and people of color in Hennepin County statistically have poorer educational outcomes, earn less, and are less likely to own homes or have access to quality health care and jobs than white people."

The disparities have lifelong impacts, including higher disease rates and higher rates of COVID-19, the county noted.

The board’s resolution follows the death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests demanding racial justice and police reform.

"Ultimately this resolution is about the health and well-being of Hennepin County residents who have borne the brunt of racial discrimination and racial inequity through various different systems" said Commissioner Angela Conley in a news release.

"Year after year after year, we find ourselves as a state and ultimately as the largest county in this state ranking among the worst places to live for Black and Indigenous people. More and more across the country, professionals in the field of public health are saying that we need to name structural racism as the root cause of our work to eliminate disparities."

The resolution directs Hennepin County to:

  • Advocate for policies to improve health outcomes for Black, Indigenous and communities of color
  • Support initiatives to dismantle systemic racism, seek partnerships with local groups with track records of confronting racism, and promote community efforts to amplify issues of racism
  • Incorporate racism and the public health crisis into budget hearing materials
  • Communicate with the board in three months about its timeline to take significant steps, such as:
    • Shifting its service-delivery approach with a lens on improving health outcomes for Black, Indigenous and people of color
    • Developing consistent methodology for data for continued public transparency
    • Assessing internal policies, procedures and goals to recommend steps to improve health outcomes for Black, Indigenous and people of color
    • Assessing how a public health lens may improve disparities in other domains, such as housing, income and education
    • Developing a recommendation for standards for implementation of any future county anti-racist community initiatives or proposals
    • Assessing county activities in hiring, promoting staff, developing leaders, contracting for services, and giving grants with a racial equity lens

According to the county, declaring racism a public health crisis will lift up the county’s work of developing strategies that mitigate personal bias and prejudice in the community, create systems that build equity, and "reach a vision of a future where all residents are healthy and successful and all communities thrive."

This article originally appeared on the St. Louis Park Patch