COLUMBUS — The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus today (May 29) announced plans to introduce legislation that would declare racism a public health crisis, echoing similar calls in Cleveland and Franklin County recently. The resolution, if passed, would be the first of its kind passed at the state level.
“Black America woke this morning to a nightmare that seems to never end and a continued feeling of hopelessness that nothing will ever be better,” OLBC president Rep. Stephanie Howse, D-Cleveland, said in a news release.
The resolution comes on the heels of Thursday night’s protests in Columbus and in advance of more protests planned around the state this weekend after the death of George Floyd. Protests over his death have erupted throughout the country.
“In 2017, African American babies born in Mahoning County were three times more likely than white babies in the county to die before their first birthday. We have to be honest about systemic inequality and the racial impact of access to quality health care at birth and throughout life, or we will never live up to our fullest potential as a region,” state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, said in a news release.
Lepore-Hagan signed onto the resolution. “This resolution is an important part of that dialogue, which will become action steps needed to combat racism,” she said.
The resolution calls for the following actions:
- Establishing a glossary of terms and definitions concerning racism and health equity
- Assert that racism is a public health crisis affecting the entire community
- Incorporating educational efforts to address and dismantle racism, and expand understanding of racism and how racism affects individual and population health
- Promoting community engagement, actively engaging citizens on issues of racism and providing tools to engage actively and authentically with communities of color
- Committing to review all portions of codified ordinances with a racial equity lens
- Committing to conducting all human resources, vendor selection and grant management activities with a racial equity lens, including reviewing all internal policies and practices such as hiring, promotions, leadership appointments and funding
- Promoting racially equitable economic and workforce development practices
- Promoting and encouraging all policies that prioritize the health of people of color, and support local, state, regional and federal initiatives that advance efforts to dismantle systematic racism and mitigating exposure to adverse childhood experience and trauma;
- Training of all elected officials, staff, funders and grantees on workplace biases and how to mitigate them;
- Partnering and building alliances with local organizations that have a legacy and track record of confronting racism;
- Encouraging community partners and stakeholders in the education, employment, housing and criminal justice and safety arenas to recognize racism as a public health crisis and to activate the above items;
- Securing adequate resources to successfully accomplish the above activities.