Hamilton County To Declare Racism A Health Crisis

Jun 30, 2020

Hamilton County commissioners are expected to vote on a resolution next month to declare racism a public health crisis.

Commissioner Victoria Parks presented a draft of the resolution during a news conference Tuesday morning. Commission President Denise Driehaus also attended.

The commission will discuss the issue at two meetings this week. A public hearing is set for Thursday at 1 p.m.

The document lays out 10 "whereas" statements that provide some basic facts, and 15 "resolved" statements outlining steps the county will take to address the issues.

"I wanted the resolution to have teeth, and thanks to our wonderful partners in the community and other county offices I feel confident that this resolution helps get us to a more equitable county," Parks said in a statement.

A sampling of some of the "whereas" statements:

  • WHEREAS, racism and segregation in Ohio and Hamilton County have exacerbated a health divide resulting in Black Ohioans having lower life expectancies than White Ohioans; being far more likely than other races to die prematurely (before the age of 75); and to die of heart disease or stroke, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. Black Ohioans also have higher levels of infant mortality, lower birth weights, are more likely to be overweight or obese, have adult diabetes, and have long-term complications from diabetes. A contemporary example of such disparity is highlighted by preliminary data in Ohio that suggest African Americans are dying at a disproportionately higher rate from the coronavirus;
  • WHEREAS, race is a social construct with no biologic basis. Racism is a social system with multiple dimensions: individual racism is internalized or interpersonal; systemic racism is institutional or structural, and is a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of how one looks, this unfairly disadvantages specific individuals and communities, while unfairly giving advantages to other individuals and communities, and saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources;
  • WHEREAS, racism causes persistent racial discrimination influencing many areas of life, including housing, education, employment and criminal justice; and an emerging body of research demonstrates that racism itself is a social determinant of health.

The resolution also addresses infant mortality, disparities in oral health, disabilities, and social justice.

Some of the 15 "resolved" statements:

  • BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Hamilton County BOCC (Board of County Commissioners) will support and promote collaborative health efforts, such Cradle Cincinnati, the Hamilton County Oral Health Coalition, Center for Closing the Health Gap, All-In Cincinnati, and Gen-H that are centering the voice of Black communities in an effort to reduce racial inequities in health. Local hospital systems and foundations are encouraged to continue investments in collaborative efforts that prioritize the closing of racial disparities in health outcomes;
  • BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Hamilton County BOCC will work to incorporate the concept of equity into all of its functions as a County government and will seek to build alliances and partnerships with organizations that are confronting racism and encourages other local, state, regional and national entities to recognize racism as a public health crisis;
  • BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Hamilton County will, in 2020, begin the process of conducting an economic disparity study to determine whether inequities exist in economic outcomes related to County procurement affecting minorities and women and, if so, to recommend solutions for remedying those inequities. 
  • BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Hamilton County BOCC encourages all community leaders and stakeholders in the health, education, employment, housing, criminal justice and safety arenas to recognize racism as a public health crisis and to implement portions or all of this declaration and to take those actions they can to promote equity within the Hamilton County community.

The resolution pledges to change the name of the "Office of Economic Inclusion" to "Office of Economic Inclusion and Equity." It would have an expanded role to promote cultural engagement focused on connecting "vulnerable, minority and poverty stricken communities of Hamilton County" to resources both inside and outside the county.

The document states the sheriff has committed to implicit basis and crisis intervention training for deputies. Plus, there would be "active bystander training for its officers to ensure that the officers and deputies of the sheriff's office are provided the tools and training to effectively speak out against and prevent wrong doing on the job in all instances, but especially during intense and high pressure moments."

Other county offices under the control of the county commissioners would also be involved in similar efforts and training. 

The county would partner with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center "to create a curriculum for private, public, and nonprofit entities to educate about the historical and systemic effects that racism has on African Americans and people of color."

Parks proposed a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis earlier in June following protests and demonstrations after the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis in May.

Last week, WCPO reported Gov. Mike DeWine recognizes "racism as a public health crisis in his state." Meanwhile, an Ohio Senate committee continued to hear testimony on a resolution to declare racism a public health crisis in the state.