ROCKVILLE, MD — Racism has been declared a public health crisis in Maryland's most populous county.
The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the resolution, which recognizes "racism as a root cause of disparities and inequities" and a "social determinant of health."
The resolution — spearheaded by Councilmember Will Jawando — comes amid nationwide protests over George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody.
"I think most people don't realize that if you look at health disparities — if you look at black women, they are three times more likely to die in child birth despite their age, income, or access to health care," Jawando, who is black, said. "You look in the criminal justice arena: black men and women are much more likely to be killed by police or arrested and prosecuted. If you look in the environment and transportation arena, pedestrians who get hit by cars, trucks, and buses tend to be lower income black and brown people because their communities aren't invested."
The coronavirus pandemic, he explained, is yet another health disparity plaguing communities of color: "Disparities in health outcomes have been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic, as African Americans have the highest number of recorded cases and deaths. This is true across the United States, in the state of Maryland and in Montgomery County, where African Americans account for 25 percent of the deaths, despite being 19 percent of the county's population."
Councilmembers called this resolution "the next urgent step" to promote racial equity and eliminate health disparities in Montgomery County. For lawmakers to get there, the resolution requests they:
- Assert that racism is a public health crisis and committing to better understand how racism has influenced past work
- Become an equity and justice-oriented organization
- Promote racial equity and social justice through all policies, as well as educate and train council staff on how racism can affect health care, the delivery of human and social services, economic development, and public safety
- Advocate locally and nationally for policies that improve health in communities of color and dismantle systemic racism
- Solidify partnerships with organizations that are confronting racism and encourage other local, state, regional, and national entities to recognize racism as a public health crisis
- Collaborate with local communities to find more ways to counter systemic injustices