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Wyden, Merkley Introduce Senate Resolution to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis - KTVZ

Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., this week joined Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., to introduce a Senate resolution to declare racism a public health crisis.

“The coronavirus has laid bare the racial inequities in our public health systems. It’s clearer than ever that racism is a public health crisis in urgent need of federal intervention,” Wyden said. “I hope that the Senate will swiftly pass this resolution to lay the groundwork for the reforms desperately needed to end racism in health care."

“Living in a racist society is a pre-existing condition for too many people of color,” said Merkley. “Black and Brown Americans regularly are sicker, get less and lower quality care, and have worse health outcomes regardless of their incomes or other factors because of the persistent racism built into our systems and society that devalues Black and Brown lives and well-being. The coronavirus is highlighting the danger of these inequities, as Americans of color continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic. Everyone deserves affordable, quality health care, but it's not enough to just work for better health care for all—we need to also acknowledge and directly address the unacceptable racist disparities in health care.”

The lawmakers said the coronavirus pandemic has underscored the racial disparities that continue to pervade public health as a direct result of systemic racism. Barriers to quality health care access, housing, jobs, wages and more contribute to stark health disparities for communities of color.

This virus has proven especially lethal for those communities – the infection, hospitalization and mortality rates are disproportionately high among Black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native populations. 

Wyden and Merkley said the resolution acknowledges the history of racism and discrimination within health care and the systemic barriers that people of color continue to face when seeking care.

The resolution also highlights the effects of systemic racism on the health and wellness of communities of color, resulting in shorter life expectancy, worsened health outcomes and enhanced exposure to harmful or dangerous environments. This resolution encourages concrete action to address health disparities and inequity across all sectors in society. 

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