Address Racism: A Public Health Crisis

As Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins has recently stated, racism is a public health emergency in our city, state, and nation. Racism is a driving force in the premature loss of life, lack of safety, and health disparities in our state. Racism frames the access to and distribution of resources that have a direct impact on our health and the vitality of our communities. Racism may be intentional or unintentional. It operates on multiple levels that collectively lead to negative health impacts, early deaths, increased likelihood of violence and community trauma. A deep body of research links experiences of racism and the associated stress and trauma to changes in the body and brain that profoundly impact the well-being of Black people in particular. It is clear and undeniable that while individual microaggressions and explicit racism are a piece of this, racist policies and institutional practices perpetuate inequities at a structural level. Racism affects home ownership, preventing individuals of color to accumulate generational wealth for their families, and it is well known that wealth and health are closely related.

The impact of racism on the health and well-being of the nation is not new, but our response needs to be renewed with deeper self-reflection and commitment to action.

The COVID-19 pandemic shows us that when we allow systemic racism to go unrecognized and unchallenged, disparities in health and wealth grow. The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers and the violent militarization of the response to protesters across the country exhibit how deep structural inequities run in our institutions. These injustices are fueled by silence. Therefore, we must be intentional and name racism as a public health emergency. Doing so is a necessary yet insufficient step that commits us to the long-term work of dismantling those structures, policies and practices that contribute to, and sometimes directly cause, the senseless and tragic loss of life.

The Program in Health Disparities Research Community Academic Board members stand with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) leaders and urge anti-racist policies that actively advance equity, prioritizing resources to:

  • Ensure everyone is able to enjoy the highest standards of physical and mental health, and access to quality health care to sustain the well-being of one’s own body without discrimination.
  • Develop, improve, and reaffirm education and training that prepare students and professionals with knowledge and skills to expose the role of inequity as it relates to each discipline under study.
  • Dismantle and reconceive the current criminal justice system and militarization of public servants that lead to mass incarceration of children and teens, indigenous and people of color, people with mental health disorders, and impoverished people.

Twin Cities communities have shown deep compassion and willingness to come together in response to recent violence – that caring now needs to move into action. We recognize that racism prevents everyone from achieving their highest quality of life. We know racism is dehumanizing. Anytime we allow a person or group to be treated as less than human, it becomes easier for the next group to be harmed. Our humanity is attacked, even as bystanders. We cannot be complicit. May we all realize that we are in this together and act accordingly.


Sida Ly-Xiong, PHDR Community Academic Board Chair
Michele Allen, University of MN, Director PHDR
Maria Arboleda, Community Member
Deatrick LaPointe, Community Member
Antonia Wilcoxon, Community Member
Tamiko Ralston, Community Member
Luis Ortega, Community Member
Clarence Jones, Community Member
Huda Ahmed, Community Member
Bilal Alkatout, Community Member
Sue Everson-Rose, University of MN
Maiyia Kasouaher, University of MN
Mikow Hang, University of MN
Carolyn Bramante, University of MN
Sarah Gollust, University of MN


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