YWCA St. Paul logo

Racism – A Public Health Crisis

In 2019, the City of Milwaukee recognized racism as a public health crisis, one of the first cites to acknowledge this crisis. Viewing racism as a public health crisis means looking at health outcomes, quality of care, socio-economic status, environment, pre-existing conditions, nutrition, and support systems through the lens of race. This list of factors is also known as social determinants of health.

When we look at COVID-19 for instance, the people most impacted are disproportionally BIPOC. This is evident when African Americans, who make up only 13% of the population, suffer 23% of the COVID-19 related deaths.

COVID-19 cannot see race, but people can. In the article How Racism Creeps into Medicine by Hamza Shaban, she reflects on the medical system in America still practicing racist behaviors that have led to African Americans receiving subpar treatment, resulting in worse health outcomes. Shaban explained, “Today, doctors examine our lungs using spirometers that are race corrected. Normal values for lung health are reduced for patients that doctors identify as black. Not only might this practice mask economic or environmental explanations for lower lung capacity, but the logic of innate, racial difference is built into things like disability estimates, pre-employment physicals, and clinical diagnoses that rely on the spirometer.”

This discrepancy also appears in maternal mortality rates where black women are two-to-three times more likely to die while giving birth than a white woman. But the issues that face BIPOC are all symptoms of racism and a multi-faceted approach is required to solve them.

It’s not a one size fits all kind of fix; rather we need to look at every section of our society to fix the health outcomes of Black Americans. Naming racism as a public health crisis is a step in the right direction. We must also seek sustainable and effective changes to the issues we see present or change the current systems. We need to look at the social determiners of health and from there start to enact legislation and place safety nets so that when COVID-19 ends, we do not go back to the same old, same old.

Question for readers: What safety nets do we need in place?

Contributor: Nayher Futsum, Communications intern

Read More from YWCA St. Paul

Modern illustration of international human hands clapping

Give ‘em a hand!

Kudos to the young people who recently completed the YW Youth work training program! Through the program, participants learned what was needed to be their ‘best self’ in any work environment, and earned experience and credentials through paid work training and experience.

Read More »

Message from our CEO: Mourning the loss of an icon

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a role model and inspiration to generations of women. She leaves a tremendous legacy of service, persistence, brilliance, and civility. We must take time to honor her life and contributions and recommit to the fight for equal justice to which she devoted so much of her life.

Read More »
Asian man and his mother looking at photo album together

Empathy through Storytelling

Storytelling is a great way to connect with people – eliciting empathy and understanding. Sharing a personal story can help the listener gain insight into another’s experiences and increase their connection. What stories have moved you?

Read More »
Scroll to Top

YWCA St. Paul uses cookies to give you the best user experience. If you continue to use our services, we will assume that you agree to the use of such cookies.