Posted on April 28, 2021

Connecticut Lawmakers Vote to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis

Christopher Keating, Hartford Courant, April 21, 2021

Prompted by wide racial health disparities during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a key legislative committee voted Wednesday to declare racism as a public health crisis and create a special, 28-member commission to study the issue.

Since the pandemic started more than a year ago, a far higher percentage of minority residents in Connecticut have contracted COVID-19 and have died from the virus compared to white residents.

The budget-writing appropriations committee voted on a bipartisan basis in favor of the bill.

The new Commission on Racial Equity in Public Health “shall develop and periodically update a comprehensive strategic plan to eliminate health disparities and inequities across sectors, including consideration of the following: air and water quality, natural resources and agricultural land, affordable housing, infrastructure systems, public health, access to quality health care, social services, sustainable communities and the impact of climate change,” according to the bill.

The committee focused on the bill’s fiscal aspects, which call for $350,000 in funding that includes $250,000 for salaries and $100,000 for fringe benefits for a new executive director and two executive assistants.


Recent legislative testimony showed that Connecticut ranked as the nation’s fifth-healthiest state in 2018, but also ranked 43rd in health disparities. Officials said that Black residents in the state are five times more likely than white residents to visit a hospital emergency room for an attack of asthma. Compared to babies with white mothers, statistics show that babies born to Black women are three times more likely to die and Hispanic babies are twice as likely to die.


The bill calls for a goal of a 70% reduction in various disparities, including deaths related to exposure to environmental pollutants, health insurance coverage rates, lead poisoning and pregnancy and infant health outcomes, among others. {snip}