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Jun 12
Statement from BPHC After Mayor Walsh Declares Racism A Public Health Crisis

​FRIDAY, JUNE 12, 2020 - The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) applauds Mayor Martin J. Walsh's strong commitment to address racism by signing an Executive Order Declaring Racism an Emergency and Public Health Crisis in the City of Boston.

BPHC shares Mayor Walsh's belief that racism constitutes an emergency and public health crisis in our City, threatening public health and public safety. Racism creates a persistent barrier to health equity for all residents. It is the paramount social determinant of health, shaping access to the resources that create opportunities for health, including public safety, housing, education and employment. Racism in and of itself has been proven to have broad-reaching and direct negative impact on individual health outcomes. 

The Boston Public Health Commission has been a national leader in racial justice and health equity work throughout the past 20 years. Working in partnership with the Mayor's Office of Health and Human Services, as well as partners inside and outside of City government, BPHC has advanced measures including the adoption of a Data Collection Regulation to require racial and ethnic health data reporting, the formation of the Anti-Racism Advisory Committee, the creation of mandatory all-staff Racial Justice Health Equity professional development trainings, the adoption of an Equitable Procurement Policy, implementation of an organizational policy guiding our community engagement and the formation of a Health Equity Advisory Committee made up a representative group of community members.

While racial justice work is not new to us at BPHC, the Commission understands that we must recommit to addressing the impact that racism has on the lives of all of our neighbors and how it impacts the overall health of our City.

We look forward to working in partnership with Mayor's Office of Health & Human Services, departments across the City, and our many partners in the community to tackle the following eight key strategies to combat racism as a public health crisis and resulting health inequities:

  1. Develop policy and practice solutions that work to dismantle the systemic racism that creates barriers to strong public health. Strategies include using a health equity in all policies approach to evaluate current policies and practices and ensure access to data to drive equitable policy and practice development. 

  2. In partnership with COVID-19 Health Inequities Task Force, develop a 'Boston Health Equity Now' plan that outlines detailed objectives and measurable goals in which the City will focus on root causes of the inequities that cause disparities in health outcomes for our residents.

  3. Engage historically marginalized communities in identifying problems and solutions and supporting community-driven responses.

  4. Ensure complete and regular availability of specific race and ethnicity data that documents the health inequities that exist in Boston through collection, dissemination and remedies for gaps in that data to strengthen our collective understanding.

  5. Conduct ongoing and enhanced analysis using all available data to understand the complexity of the interconnectedness of societal, environmental, and behavioral factors that contribute to the impact of racism on access to those resources that promote good health including good jobs, access to healthy and affordable food and housing, equitable transportation options and excellent public education. This includes a more comprehensive understanding of racism and its impact on violence in the community both as a direct correlation to its existence and the impact that it creates on the overall health of people and the community at large. 

  6. Focus on access to prevention and treatment that is culturally and linguistically competent and meets communities where they are to counter the inequities that exist in health care.

  7. Develop direct service programs and services to address the negative impact that these inequities have had on specific populations as well as programs that empower communities to tackle these systemic barriers. 

  8. Advocate at the state and federal level for policies and funding opportunities that directly combat systemic racism.

Today, Mayor Walsh announced $3 million dollars for BPHC to begin implementing the eight strategies announced above. Mayor Walsh also announced $1 million dollars to support trauma response and counseling for the Boston Neighborhood Trauma Team (NTT), which offers support services for individuals, families, and communities impacted by community violence.

The increase in funding will also support our Boston Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BBRFSS). BBRFSS data provides vital neighborhood level data, allowing BPHC to identify problems, target resources and design interventions in vulnerable populations. The additional funding will allow BBRFSS to oversample specific populations within the City and BPHC will use that data to inform action targeting inequities.

BPHC will release a plan within the next 120 days with specific actions related to the Boston Health Equity Now plan. In addition, BPHC will release a yearly report on measures of progress and challenges in addressing these systemic barriers starting in 2021. 

With the support of Mayor Walsh, this declaration and commitment to invest resources enables the Boston Public Health Commission to build on its strengths as a nationwide leader in understanding and addressing the relationships between racism and health outcomes. BPHC looks forward to working side-by-side with residents in moving toward a city where all residents live fulfilling lives, free of racism, poverty, violence, and other systems of oppression.



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Boston Public Health Commission
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