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Commissioner works to declare racism a public health crisis in Hamilton County

Posted at 3:21 PM, Jun 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 14:31:18-04

HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio — The Hamilton County Commission will vote on a resolution Thursday that would declare racism a public health crisis.

Hamilton County Commissioner Victoria Parks released a draft of the resolution in the county last Tuesday.

The move, which follows weeks of protests over police brutality, calls for expanded training for county employees, a disparity study specific to the county and expansion of the Office of Economic Inclusion, in addition to supporting collaborative health efforts that reduce racial inequities.

Parks said Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil has committed to conducting active bystander training, implicit bias training and crisis intervention training within the sheriff’s office. The resolution calls for Hamilton County employees under the Board of Commissioners to receive similar training.

The resolution also commits the county to conduct an economic disparity study to identify whether inequalities exist and to recommend solutions. In addition to the study, the resolution moves for the expansion of the Office of Economic Inclusion so minority communities can be better connected to resources.

Hamilton County officials said there is a clear connection between race and health, and the Commission hopes the steps laid out in the resolution make sure racism is no longer a predictor of how long a person lives.

Renee Mahaffey Harris, CEO of the Center for Closing the Health Gap, said the data is undeniable.

“There is research upon research that demonstrates that race is the construct in the gaps of disparity that we see in our overall health,” Harris said.

African Americans are affected at a higher rate when it comes to diabetes, hypertension and most recently, COVID-19.

“We can point to the numbers that we see to the disproportional impact of COVID-19 in the Black community," she said.

Non-Hispanic Black people are hospitalized with COVID-19 at a rate of five times that of a non-Hispanic white person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Parks said these disparities are part of the reason the county needs to declare racism as a public health crisis.

“Everybody that is here, their heart is in it. They understand it. They have accepted the inequities that have born upon African Americans,” she said.

Kiana Tradue with the Health Collaborative said she hopes this step from county leaders will lead to hospitals and other local organizations and institutions addressing their part in this issue.

“I feel like it’s a long time coming. Those of us who work in this space and understand social determinants of health and look at data everyday and understand health disparities and are trying to work to eliminate health disparities, we say these things to ourselves and to each other all the time but to hear it coming from our leadership is really exciting," Tradue said.

The vote is scheduled to take place Thursday at 1:00 p.m.