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Ohio county declares racism a public health crisis

Officials in Ohio have declared racism a public health crisis in the state’s embattled Franklin County, where twice as many black people are hospitalized for COVID-19 than other races, despite being a minority of the population.

A public health declaration and resolution was passed on Tuesday by commissioners in Franklin County along with a 10-step plan to address racism in the health system, housing and education. 

The resolution was a part of the 2019 Rise Together Blueprint effort to address poverty in Central Ohio that was first announced last year, well before the coronavirus struck.

‘Racism has been a pandemic long before the current coronavirus pandemic,’ Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce said in a statement.

‘Our declaration today is important, but it’s not saying anything that hasn’t been apparent for a long time. COVID-19 has highlighted the health divide between black and white Ohioans, however, and I hope that it can be the catalyst we need to reform the whole health system so that it works for all of us equally,’ he added. 

Franklin County's Commission Board in Ohio declared racism a public health crisis on Tuesday. A doctor in Columbus pictured installing equipment to treat COVID-19 patients on April 17

Franklin County's Commission Board in Ohio declared racism a public health crisis on Tuesday. A doctor in Columbus pictured installing equipment to treat COVID-19 patients on April 17

Franklin County’s Commission Board in Ohio declared racism a public health crisis on Tuesday. A doctor in Columbus pictured installing equipment to treat COVID-19 patients on April 17

The resolution was a part of the 2019 Rise Together Blueprint effort to address poverty in Central Ohio that was first announced last year, well before the coronavirus struck. An aerial view of Columbus' capitol building, located in Franklin County, above

The resolution was a part of the 2019 Rise Together Blueprint effort to address poverty in Central Ohio that was first announced last year, well before the coronavirus struck. An aerial view of Columbus' capitol building, located in Franklin County, above

The resolution was a part of the 2019 Rise Together Blueprint effort to address poverty in Central Ohio that was first announced last year, well before the coronavirus struck. An aerial view of Columbus’ capitol building, located in Franklin County, above

While black residents make up just 23 percent of the population of 1.3million in Franklin County, they are hospitalized at twice the rate of other demographic groups, according to the commissioner report. 

Preliminary data from Ohio suggests they are dying at a disproportionately higher rate from the disease, according to the commissioners.

In mid-April 20 percent of all of Ohio’s coronavirus cases where African Americans – who make up just 12 percent of the population, according to the Columbus-Dispatch. Whites, by comparison, make up 79 percent of the state’s population but accounted for 52 percent of the COVID-19 cases, at that time. 

'Racism has been a pandemic long before the current coronavirus pandemic,' Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce said in a statement Tuesday

'Racism has been a pandemic long before the current coronavirus pandemic,' Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce said in a statement Tuesday

‘Racism has been a pandemic long before the current coronavirus pandemic,’ Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce said in a statement Tuesday

In Ohio Franklin County has the highest number of COVID-19 cases with 4,793 infections, 607 hospitalizations and 200 deaths, as of Wednesday. 

Overall in Ohio there are over 27,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 1,600 deaths. 

Across the country black people are infected with COVID-19 and dying at a disproportionate rate.

An Amfar study based on data collected April 13 said disproportionately black counties account for 22 percent of all US counties and are home to 52 percent of nationwide coronavirus cases and 58 percent of COVID-19 deaths, according to the Washington Post

Black people account for 13 percent of the country’s entire population. 

The declaration comes after the Franklin County Board of Health passed a similar resolution last week on May 14 noting racism and segregation in Franklin County and Ohio has ‘exacerbated a health divide resulting in Black Ohioans having lower life expectancy than White Ohioans.’

Black residents are more likely to die prematurely, meaning before the age of 75, compared to other races, the report said. 

They also have an infant mortality rate that is nearly three times higher than other races and are more likely to be overweight or obese and have adult onset diabetes, according to the Board of Health.

The declaration describes that internal and systemic forms of racism have led to ‘persistent discrimination and disparate outcomes’ between white people and people of color in the county.

Discrimination has affected people of color in housing, education, employment and criminal justice, and healthcare. 

‘Nothing is more important than the health and wellbeing of our residents,’ Board of Commissioners President John O’Grady said in a statement.

In Franklin County twice as many black people are hospitalized for COVID-19 than other races, even though they account for just 23 percent of the population. Across the country black people are infected with COVID-19 and dying at a disproportionate rate. New York woman Sonia Joy pictured testing for coronavirus antibodies on May 14

In Franklin County twice as many black people are hospitalized for COVID-19 than other races, even though they account for just 23 percent of the population. Across the country black people are infected with COVID-19 and dying at a disproportionate rate. New York woman Sonia Joy pictured testing for coronavirus antibodies on May 14

In Franklin County twice as many black people are hospitalized for COVID-19 than other races, even though they account for just 23 percent of the population. Across the country black people are infected with COVID-19 and dying at a disproportionate rate. New York woman Sonia Joy pictured testing for coronavirus antibodies on May 14 

‘Our community’s success depends on all Franklin County residents being able to share in it, but right now we have a system that is resulting in different outcomes for people based on the color of their skin. That’s not acceptable.’

Board Commissioner Marilyn Brown said that the racism and discrimination seen today stems from centuries of systemic racism with roots in slavery and segregation that prevails today.  

‘Hundreds of years of systemic racism, from slavery to segregation, redlining to Jim Crow, and discrimination in housing, finance, and education, some of which persists today, have led to predictable inequities,’ Commissioner Marilyn Brown said in a statement. 

‘We won’t solve these things overnight, but it’s important to start by recognizing them and beginning to work purposefully for change.’

The Franklin County Rise Together Blueprint report noted that the county’s African American residents also experience dramatically higher unemployment rates. 

Overall the rate is 5.7 percent in the state, but it is 11.1 percent among African Americans. Similarly, they face a high poverty rate of 29.9 percent compared to the county’s general 16.7 percent unemployment rate. 

To combat the public health crisis the agency approved of a $3,000 contract to train employees on racism and equity in public health. 

A separate resolution will also implement a ‘Health and Equity in All Policies Policy’ to further address racism within the agency.   

Source: dailymail US

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