July 28, 2020

Cárdenas , Hayes Introduces Resolution Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, Congressman Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) and Congresswoman Hayes (CT-05), will introduce a House Resolution declaring racism a public health crisis. Senators Brown, Booker, and Harris introduced S.Res.655, a companion Resolution in the Senate last week. The legislation is supported by nearly the entire Democratic Caucus.

The resolution acknowledges the history of racism and discrimination within health care and the systemic barriers that people of color continue to face when seeking care. The resolution also highlights the effects of systemic racism on the health and wellness of communities of color, resulting in shorter life expectancy; worsened health outcomes; and enhanced exposure to harmful or dangerous environments. This resolution encourages concrete action to address health disparities and inequity across all sectors in society.

The average life expectancy of African Americans is four years lower than the rest of the U.S. population. Black women are up to four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. Minority groups suffer from asthma at a disproportionate rate, have the highest number of emergency room visits and hospital stays due to asthma, and have higher mortality rates from asthma than their white counterparts. Compared to non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics are 40 percent more likely to die from diabetes, African Americans are twice as likely to die from diabetes, and American Indians/Alaska Natives are almost twice as likely to die from the disease.

“Our country has been thrust into a national dialogue centered on the pernicious and systemic inequities that plague the structures that are supposed to keep people safe,” said Congresswoman Hayes. “At the same time, we have been dealing with a global pandemic that has ravaged communities of color, underscoring the disparity in access to care that communities of color face. It is critical that Congress formally acknowledge the barriers created by overt racism or unconscious bias in our health care system that have existed for generations and actively work to dismantle inequities. I join my colleagues in acknowledging that racism is a public health crisis.”

“For generations, people of color across America have lived with the real fear that they are a target of systemic racism. But systemic racism goes beyond policing in America and our unfair justice system – racism is a public health problem,” said Congressman Tony Cárdenas. “People of color are more likely to have chronic health conditions, shorter life expectancy, die due to pregnancy complications, and not have access to quality medical care. This growing problem has only been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic; people of color are disproportionately being affected by the virus. We need to call this what it is: national public health crisis. I’m proud to join my colleague Rep. Hayes in introducing this resolution to declare racism a public health emergency.”

Text of the bill can be found here.

Supporting organizations include:

African Communities Together, Alliance for Aging Research, Alliance for Justice, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College Nurse Mid-wives, American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG), American Muslim Health Professionals, American Public  Health Association (APHA), American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), America’s Essential Hospitals, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, Association for Women in Psychology, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network, Black Mammas Matter Alliance, Black Women’s Health Imperative, Center for American Progress, Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy (CEED), Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Cleveland Clinic, Connecticut Children’s Hospital, Health Equity Collaborative, Hispanic Federation, HIV Medicine Association, Howard University, Human Impact Partners, Human Rights Watch, Indivisible, Intercultural Development Research Association, Jane Addams Senior Caucus, Jewish Community Relations Council, Lambda Legal, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, League of Conservation Voters, Morehouse School of Medicine, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, National Association of Social Workers, National Birth Equity Collaborative, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Employment Law Project, National Health Law Program, National Immigrant Center, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, National Medical Association, National Organization for Women, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, National Urban League, National Women’s Political Caucus, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), Race Equity Project, Restaurant Opportunities Centers, Service employees International Union, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Signature Health, Inc., United Negro College Fund, United Parents Against Lead & Other Environmental Hazards, , University Hospitals, Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative, Volunteer Lawyers for Justice.