The city of Grand Rapids, Mich., declared racism a public health crisis, confirming what Black people have been saying for years.
The Grand Rapids City Commission approved a resolution last week that says systemic racism affects the health of Black, Indigenous and other people of color in Grand Rapids. According to MLive, the resolution applies a public health framework to address racism and gives the commission the power to address social and economic disparities through policy and resources.
The Grand Rapids resolution declares Black, Indigenous and people of color face economic injustice, social deprivation and health inequities as a result of systemic racism, and outlines the ways in which that has played out in housing and transportation policies in the past 100 years.
The resolution also outlines how some of these practices continue to negatively impact these communities, including the areas of economic security, educational attainment, access to nutritious food and more.
Some of the racialized inequities from city and county data in the resolution include that, countywide, the average median household income is $32,203 for Black households and $46,454 for Latino households. Non-Latino, white households have an average median income of $67,324.
The resolution cites numerous studies linking experiencing racism to heart disease, depression, increase in stress hormones, high blood pressure and death. There is also evidence that racism can activate the immune and inflammatory systems and alter or impair certain regions of the brain, MLive notes.
Stacy Stout, the city’s director of Equity and Engagement, proposed the resolution earlier last month, according to ABC affiliate WZZM. “This resolution will not undo racism but it is a step in the right direction,” Stout said, according to WZZM.
The city will also be getting help from the Kent County Health Department, which released a report last year highlighting disparities in the healthcare system. The commission won’t provide direct health and medical services but focus on housing, public safety, accessible mobility options, wealth creation, crime prevention and more that affect their citizens’ health and well-being. It will also support local efforts and movements to improve equity.
Here’s a statement from Stout, according to MLive:
“The City has direct and indirect influence on systems and policies, and therefore is positioned to foster positive change and demonstrate courageous leadership in naming the problem and adding a public health framework to our growing equity lens,” Stout wrote. “Naming racism as a public health crisis also supports our journey to combat racism, in all its forms, and the negative impact it has on both our BIPOC and white community.
The resolution approved Tuesday, Sept. 28, by the Grand Rapids City Commission urges local organizations, businesses, units of government and individuals to use their influence to “dismantle racism and apply a public health framework to those efforts.”
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared racism a public health crisis last year, mentioning that the pandemic made pre-existing disparities in the health care system hard to ignore.