Monday, July 15, 2024

Resolution to declare racism a ‘public health crisis’ heads to New Hanover County Commissioners

A resolution to declare racism a public health crisis is heading to the Board of Commissioners. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — For the first time in decades, leaders on a massive scale across the country are having open discussions on racism in the United States and addressing the issues that minorities face on a daily basis. In New Hanover County, County Commissioners have addressed the ongoing protests and greater discussions on race but little has been done.

On July 13, county leaders could be taking a step in addressing racism in the county by approving a resolution that will deem racism a ‘public health crisis.

But what does that mean?

The resolution starts by explaining that the New Hanover County Board of County Commissioners has “identified the reduction of racial inequity as a critical priority and essential to effective and systemic delivery of health and human services in New Hanover County.”

While some people might question racism being a health crisis, the resolution explains it in detail.

“Racism unfairly disadvantages specific individuals and communities of color, while unfairly giving advantages to other individuals and communities, and diminishes the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources, New Hanover County’s collective prosperity depends upon the equitable access to opportunity for every resident,” according to the resolution.

The resolution also acknowledges the fact that racism ‘perpetuates poverty’ through both intentional and unintentional policies that can create economic barriers.

Most people think of a health crisis as being something that causes physical distress — and racism can do just that.

“It is well documented that racism itself has an adverse impact on health. Chronic stress caused by discrimination can trigger a cascade of adverse health outcomes, from high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, immunodeficiency, and accelerated aging, all of which are high in communities of color,” according to the resolution.

So what about locally?

In New Hanover County there are several statistics that show different health detriments impacting minority communities disproportionally. For example, when it comes to the disparity in birth weights among newborns, Black newborns followed by Hispanic babies were affected the most.

Diabetes also affects minorities at a higher rate than white residents of New Hanover County. In deaths due to diabetes, 5.5% in the county were Hispanic, 4.4% Black, and 1.8% non-Hispanic White. Prostate cancer also affected Black men several percentage points higher than White and Hispanic men.

While the bulk of the resolution is summarized above, the actual action the county would be taking is summed up into one paragraph, essentially asking others to take similar steps in realizing the problems with racism.

“This resolution calls upon legislators, health officials, and others in our community to research and analyze data, and make meaningful changes to dismantle systemic racism. New Hanover count will seek to promote racial equity through policies approved by the Board of Commissioner and will encourage other local, state, and national entities to recognize racism as a public health crisis and take action,” the resolution concludes.

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