Posted on July 28, 2021

Racism Is a Public Health Crisis, Richmond City Council Declares

Chris Suarez and Sabrina Moreno, Richmond Times Dispatch, July 26, 2021

Richmond is now among more than 200 American localities that have declared racism a public health crisis.

The City Council unanimously adopted the declaration on Monday night with few remarks from the legislative body, five months after Virginia lawmakers passed a similar resolution for the state. The city’s resolution is the first adopted by a Virginia locality.

Richmond’s resolution sets out a 10-point plan that includes the implementation of new laws and policies; public outreach efforts; partnerships with community organizations; and anti-racism training for city officials and employees.


In April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared racism a “serious public health threat,” citing the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on racial and ethnic minority groups {snip}

Fifteen states — including Mississippi, California and Wisconsin — have declared racism a public health crisis, according to the American Public Health Association. On the group’s website, the group defines racism as a systemic and interpersonal social phenomenon that creates inequities in health care, housing, education and employment, and “saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources.”

Jackie Lawrence, director of health equity for the combined health district of Richmond and Henrico County, described some of the disparities in health outcomes for Black families in the area as “staggering.”


Lawrence said structural issues such as the lack of a grocery store in majority-Black neighborhoods, including in North Richmond’s Highland Park, make it difficult for families to make healthy dietary choices.


“The numbers aren’t lying to us. We also have the lived experience of people verbally telling us — qualitative data — that racism is traumatic,” Lawrence said. “Resolutions like this help us understand this is a collective issue.”


From June 21 to July 18, Black residents of Richmond accounted for 62% of the city’s COVID-19 cases where race and ethnicity was reported, while making up only 47% of the city’s population. White city residents made up 43% of Richmond’s population but accounted for only 14% of the city’s coronavirus cases in that period.

Public housing units, where up to 95% of residents are Black, and Southwood — an apartment complex in South Richmond where the majority of residents are Latino and immigrant — have seen some of the lowest vaccination rates in the city.

Black Virginians are the state’s least-vaccinated group — and unvaccinated people are accounting for nearly every recent coronavirus case, hospitalization and death.