Posted on October 23, 2020

Should Racism Be Declared a Public Health Crisis? Gov. Northam, State Leaders Say Yes

McKinley Strother, WSLS 10 News, October 20, 2020

For many, the global coronavirus pandemic is the worst health crisis in a generation. From the crisis emerged a focus on another emergency, one ignored for centuries: racism.

As a nation, the reckoning on race has led to major changes and brought renewed attention to the ways systems and institutions disadvantage people of color. {snip}

Our latest story questions whether racism should be declared a public health crisis.

“There are fears and concerns that those of us who come from marginalized communities have that our brothers and sisters on the other side don’t think about,” explained Dr. Deneen Evans.

Owner of Mosaic Mental Wellness & Health, Dr. Evans acknowledges the trauma racism has caused on many generations of color.

“We have to start looking at race as a public health issue because it does impact health on a medical/physical side as well as a societal/systemic side,” stated Dr. Evans. “The trauma, the health effects, the economic upheaval that happens – it is legitimate, and they do need to start looking at a framework that would make it acceptable in the medical field and social science field.”

Treating racism as a public health crisis is not a new practice. In fact, many states and cities have made the declaration. According to the American Public Health Association, at least 26 states or cities have done so by allocating resources and strategic action to combat racism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides guidance on this topic.


Del. Lashrecse Aird represents Virginia’s 63rd district in the House of Delegates. Part of the General Assembly’s special session, Del. Aird introduced a resolution that would formally acknowledge racism as a public health crisis in the Commonwealth.


In her proposed legislation much like in other areas, Aird says systems would immediately be put in place to address “systemic inequities,” as she describes it.


WSLS 10 News questioned Gov. Ralph Northam on the issue while speaking at an event in South Boston.

“We talked about that very issue that racism is a health crisis issue. We’re looking at a proclamation. That starts with leadership and a message that comes from the Governor and other individuals. It’s something that I’m discussing with that advisory board. I’ll work with Del. Aird and I think you’ll see more in that regard,” commented Gov. Northam.

“It’s not rocket science. It’s just understanding and valuing and respecting the human condition.”

In his own effort to combat racism, Gov. Northam signed an executive order creating a commission to examine racial inequality in Virginia law. {snip}