Racism is officially a public health crisis in Hamilton County.
A resolution declaring such — spearheaded by Hamilton County Commissioner Victoria Parks — was unanimously approved by the three-member Board of Commissioners.
And it isn’t just talk: the resolution also outlines the ways in which the county and partner organizations will work to rectify the racial inequities that impact health outcomes.
“This is our opportunity to move toward the bountiful community. As we learn to respect, first of all, we have to accept the harm done historically and correct it. That’s what this resolution is: It’s an opportunity for us to get this right so that my grandchildren don’t have to grow up in an environment like I did. It is historical, it’s important and it will make our community a better, rich cultural place to be,” said Parks during today’s commission meeting and vote.
Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said the resolution was a significant move toward recognizing racism and how it impacts health and wellness.
“We’ve always worked in this space, but today we’re calling it what it is and I think that’s a really important step,” he said. “I think we’re going to make some real change and ultimately actually eliminate disparities in Hamilton County and we’ll create (good) health outcomes for all regardless of an individual’s race.”
The @HamiltonCntyOH Board of County Commissioners just voted to declare Racism a Public Health Crisis. More than a declaration, the resolution outlines strategies the county will take to address systemic racism and promote justice. You can read it here: https://t.co/CFthXFoe3k pic.twitter.com/SkczaAjPPV— Denise Driehaus (@DeniseDriehaus) July 16, 2020
(The link to the resolution is broken in that Tweet. She later corrected it. Here is the correct link.)
YWCA President and CEO Barbara C. Perez, a supporter of the resolution, said she had already connected with 244 Hamilton County companies and organizations and 143 individuals from across the corporate, nonprofit and interfaith worlds who are all committed to this change.
Renee Mahaffey Harris, president and CEO of Closing the Health Gap, whose mission is to eliminate health disparities through education, advocacy and outreach, is one of those.
“This is a historic day,” she said. “I know we’re in a difficult and challenging time but I am so encouraged to hear the number of organizations that are saying we must declare racism as a public health crisis and understanding that that means all aspects of our quality of life.”
“Oftentimes things are declared,” she added, “but the actions to dismantle the systemic and structural racism don’t go forth.”
Commissioner Stephanie Summerow Dumas said she sees this resolution as an extension of the work led by Commissioner Todd Portune in 2019, which resulted in the passing of a proclamation to rid the county of systemic racism.
“The question of whether or not we were going to vote for this was a non-question for all of us,” Summerow Dumas said. “I see this resolution as a continuation of Todd’s efforts and our efforts last year and this resolution includes organizations to be a part of it — it makes them responsible and it gives action steps to it and strategies on how to move forward as well.”
The list of action steps to be taken includes, but is not limited to:
- That the county will support and promote collaborative health efforts “centering the voice of Black communities in an effort to reduce racial inequities in health.” Local hospitals and foundations are encouraged to continue their investment in these groups, which include Cradle Cincinnati, the Hamilton County Oral Health Coalition, Center for Closing the Health Gap, All-In Cincinnati, and Gen-H.
- The Hamilton County Sheriff will be provided with Implicit Bias and Crisis Intervention Training. They will also offer “Active Bystander training for its officers to ensure that the officers and deputies of the Sheriff’s Office are provided the tools and training to effectively speak out against and prevent wrong doing on the job in all instances, but especially during intense and high pressure moments, to ensure the respect and dignity of the human lives.”
- The “Hamilton County Child Fatality Review and Fetal and Infant Mortality Review processes will work to identify child deaths where the impact of racism played a role.”
- The Hamilton County Oral Health Coalition will ensure equitable oral health care for all citizens.
- The commissioners will “promote racial equity policies that prioritize the health of all people, especially people of color by mitigating exposure to adverse childhood experiences, trauma in childhood, and ensuring implementation of a Health and Equity in All Policies approach to decision-making.”
- The commissions have partnered with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to offer “a curriculum for private, public, and nonprofit entities to educate about the historical and systemic effects that racism has on African Americans and people of color and how it robs our country of trust in one another, safety, justice, and accountability.”
- The resolution also asks “community leaders and stakeholders in the health, education, employment, housing, criminal justice and safety arenas to recognize racism as a public health crisis and to implement portions or all of this declaration.”