In the News: Media Statement from CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky on Racism and Health

By

Janet Kaplan

on

May 19, 2021

Racism is a Serious Threat to the Public’s Health

CDC, April 8, 2021

Rochelle P. Walensky MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared racism a serious public health threat. She highlighted several new efforts CDC is leading to accelerate its work to address racism as a fundamental driver of racial and ethnic health inequities in the United States. She unveiled a new website “Racism and Health” that will serve as a hub for the agency’s efforts and a catalyst for greater education and dialogue around these critical issues.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the death of over 500,000 Americans. Tens of millions have been infected. And across this country people are suffering. Importantly, these painful experiences and the impact of COVID-19 are felt, most severely, in communities of color—communities that have experienced disproportionate case counts and deaths, and where the social impact of the pandemic has been most extreme. Yet, the disparities seen over the past year were not a result of COVID-19. Instead, the pandemic illuminated inequities that have existed for generations and revealed for all of America a known, but often unaddressed, epidemic impacting public health: racism.
What we know is this: racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans. As a result, it affects the health of our entire nation. Racism is not just the discrimination against one group based on the color of their skin or their race or ethnicity, but the structural barriers that impact racial and ethnic groups differently to influence where a person lives, where they work, where their children play, and where they worship and gather in community. These social determinants of health have life-long negative effects on the mental and physical health of individuals in communities of color. Over generations, these structural inequities have resulted in stark racial and ethnic health disparities that are severe, far-reaching and unacceptable.
Confronting the impact of racism will not be easy. I know that we can meet this challenge. I know that we can create an America where all people have the opportunity to live a healthy life when we each take responsibility and work together. I am committed to this work. I certainly hope you will lean in and join me.”

Learn more:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Media Statement, April 8, 2021

Racism and Health website

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