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News > World

Salt Lake City Declares Racism a 'Public Health' Crisis

  • Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Salt Lake City, U.S.

    Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Salt Lake City, U.S. | Photo: Twitter/ @kylegriffin1

Published 22 July 2021
Opinion

Racism creates inequities in access to housing, education, wealth, and employment, often referred to as social determinants of health.

On Wednesday, Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced that Salt Lake City’s Council declared racism a “public health crisis”.

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"Not only are we publicly acknowledging the existence of a grave inequity that many in our community have known and experienced for so long, we are also committing ourselves to the creation of policies and ordinances that are anti-racist," Mendenhall said.

"There is no doubt of the crisis. Our society is burdened with bigotry and all the hatred that comes with it," said Council Chair Amy Fowler. "Indeed, it is a moral imperative to combat racism, discrimination, and inequities in all their forms."

"Racism is a serious public health threat because racism -- both interpersonal and structural -- is proven to have harmful impacts to the mental and physical health of communities of color," said the resolution, adding racism is declared a public health crisis that directly impacts residents in the city "resulting in health disparities that are both measurable and preventable."

Salt Lake City is the capital of the state of Utah. Its resolution pointed out that racism impacts where a person lives, learns, works, worships and plays, creating inequities in access to a range of social and economic benefits, such as housing, education, wealth and employment, often referred to as social determinants of health.

"This nation and the states and municipalities within have been designed to systematically disadvantage underrepresented racial and ethnic groups thereby creating health disparities that have persisted even after the Civil Rights Movement following the abolition of slavery."

"The Latino communities account for 14.2 percent of Utah's population, but 40 percent of the state's COVID-19 cases. American Indian and Alaskan Native communities in Utah had a case fatality rate that is roughly three times higher than the state average. Black persons in Utah are significantly less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer, but more likely to both contract and die from colorectal cancer," the City Council noted.

"Salt Lake City believes we have a moral imperative to combat racism, discrimination, and inequities in all its manifestations," it said, adding the city "has recently moved forward to develop a city-wide equity plan with a goal to methodically review all City practices and policies and confront the systems that have resulted in generational injustice and health inequities."

Earlier this year, Utah healthcare leaders declared systemic racism a public health crisis, recognizing it as a threat to the health of patients, families and communities through economic and resource inequities which result in poor health outcomes.

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