‘It gives me a lot of hope’: Racism declared public health crisis in NYC

New York State

INWOOD, Manhattan — Even in one of the most diverse cities in the country, one elementary school teacher said she often needs to set the record straight to students on how people of color are and have historically been treated.

With that classroom experience, Brianna Larios was elated to learn New York City’s Board of Health had passed a resolution naming racism a public health crisis.

“It gives me a lot of hope that, finally, we can start to address some of these systemic problems in our state, in our city,” Larios said.

The resolution calls on the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to take steps, including reviewing the city’s health code to look for structural racism, and find ways to make changes as necessary.

Dr. Michelle Morse, the city Health Department’s chief medical officer, said the declaration will build new tools into the agency in order to actually dismantle the framework of institutionalized racism.

“As a Black woman and as a physician and as the first ever chief medical officer in the New York City Health Department, it has been so encouraging and hopeful for me,” Dr. Morse said. “Policy often encodes and leads to unfair and unjust health outcomes, so this is a way fo saying we can create new policies and practices and new actions that actually interrupt those practices.”

Psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gardere says he would like for people to understand that racism does indeed kill.

“People internalize that racism and it affects their internal organs, it affects the way that they think,” he said. “It affects their self esteem. It affects the way that they live and the access to the things that they should have, they’re not able to get.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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