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Councilor Arroyo calls for his first hearing to declare racism a public health crisis

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City Council

During this week’s Council meeting, Councilor Arroyo delivered his maiden speech on the Council floor, presenting a hearing order to declare racism a public health crisis, and on the creation of an independent office that assesses the racial equity impact of all City of Boston policies, procedures, regulations, executive orders and legislation.

Councilor Arroyo began his speech highlighting several statistics around racism and its effects on public health. According to the American Public Health Association, racism is a driving force of the social determinants of health and is a barrier to health equity. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that racism continues to undermine the health of children, adolescents and families, and the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) has found that people of color rank at the bottom of health outcomes in Boston, including but not limited to infant mortality, asthma, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and life expectancy.

“Justice requires accepting responsibility for the reality that systemic and interpersonal racism is responsible for Blacks and Latinos ranking at the bottom of those health outcomes in Boston. Too often those disparities are noted without mention of the systemic racism that contributes to and often drives those outcomes,” said Councilor Arroyo.

In 2017, the Boston Globe published a seven day series titled “Boston. Racism. Image. Reality.” The series documented many of the systemic barriers to access to care for people of color in Boston, despite the City having some of the most prestigious and high performing hospitals in the world.

“Justice requires that we join Milwaukee, Madison and Pittsburgh in declaring racism a public health crisis in Boston; however, we know that alone is not enough. We know that all policies, procedures, regulations, executive orders and legislation at the municipal level impact racial equity. We have the ability in the passage of those things to quite literally subtract years off of the lives of people of color in Boston. That is why we must ensure that racial equity is at the forefront of everything that we do. One of the ways to ensure this is by creating an independent office that will assess the racial equity impact of all of the City of Boston initiatives before they are implemented,” said Councilor Arroyo.

You can listen to all of Councilor Arroyo’s speech online.