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The Washtenaw County Board of Health declared racism a public health crisis in a resolution passed in a June 30 meeting. The move follows numerous other states and cities, including Ypsilanti, which passed its own resolution on June 2. In a press release, James Carty, the chair of the Board of Health, explained the rationale behind this decision.

“We know that racism has helped drive unequal economic, cultural, and medical circumstances that each, and in concert, lead to poorer health outcomes for people of color throughout America,” Carty said. “The only way to change this is to acknowledge it and center it as we try to learn from the mistakes of our past and build a better community where all residents of Washtenaw County are served fairly and equally.”

Belinda Needham, Public Health associate professor, said she felt this resolution was a start towards mending the inequalities in the community in an email to The Daily.

“I think it’s a really important first step to acknowledge that racism — not genetics, not culture, not health behaviors — is the root cause of racial disparities in many health outcomes, ranging from low birthweight to asthma to heart disease and, most recently, COVID-19,” Needham said. “To undo this system, we have to first identify and then change policies and practices that have discriminatory effects, not just those with discriminatory intent. On top of that, we need to address interpersonal racism and internalized racism, which also negatively impact health. It may seem like a problem that’s too big to solve, but people created racial inequities, so people can undo them.”

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