CAHC Statement on Structural Racism as a Public Health Issue

The California Adolescent Health Collaborative (CAHC) stands with Black Lives Matter, the Movement for Black Lives, NAACP, Race Forward, Showing Up for Racial Justice, other national leaders, and the California Department of Public Health’s Office of Health Equity in condemning racialized violence, police brutality, and the structural racism underpinning the long-standing epidemic of violence targeted towards people of color in the United States. With the advent of smartphones and social media, the incessant profiling and exclusion of people of color is once again part of the public consciousness. Systemic racism and targeted violence are critical public health issues that affect the wellness, health, and vitality of all communities, not just the communities and individuals literally impacted. Addressing police violence is addressing public health and dis-ease. 

VIRAL: 25 YEARS FROM RODNEY KING. COURTESY BETTI ONO GALLERY AND DARYL WELLS 

VIRAL: 25 YEARS FROM RODNEY KING. COURTESY BETTI ONO GALLERY AND DARYL WELLS 

CAHC is demonstrating solidarity in the following ways:

    1)         We join Nancy Krieger and other Harvard scientists in calling for public health institutions to include deaths from police violence in their reporting efforts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counts and reports deaths from multiple causes in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, and the increased attention to law-enforcement-related deaths (both of people at the hands of the police, and of police killed in the line of duty) makes clear that one of the many threats to health faced by Americans of all races and ethnicities, but most especially those with darker skin, is law-enforcement-related death. There is no question we need to address this issue. The question, then, is where to begin. Our duty, as public health leaders and practitioners, is to help identify the scope of the problem.

    2)         We applaud the Black Lives Matter movement for developing a robust policy platform; it is the perfect starting point for a visionary discussion of policies that will help us strive towards equity rather than inequity. While we cannot adopt the platform in its entirety, we are committed to advancing public policies that improve economic equity and broaden political power in recognition that these are these are undeniable determinants of public health.

    3)         The CAHC is backed financially by both federal and private funds. As responsible stewards of these resources, we are committed to joining the injustice boycott. CAHC is joining Shaun King and tens of thousands of others in “making a pledge that we will boycott cities, states, businesses, and institutions which are either willfully indifferent to police brutality and racial injustice or are deliberately destructive partners with it,” with one caveat: we will not abandon geographic regions that may be named in the boycott. We are committed to serving certain communities and in that we will not waiver.

Systemic racism is a threat to public health, and it is incumbent upon public health professionals to take the lead on revealing the roots of the threat just as John Snow did with the Broad Street water pump in 1855. Furthermore, we must starve the source of the threat, and history tells us that when violence with impunity is protected by economic power, we must vote with our dollars.