Indy Council passes resolution declaring racism a public health crisis

The Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday night declared racism a public health crisis in Marion County.

The three-page  resolution passed unanimously Monday night declared racism to be a public health crisis “that affects all members of the community and deserves action from all levels of government and civil society.”

It commits the council to “frank and open” discussions — to be integrated into its daily work — of race and the impact of the decisions it makes upon racial inequities in the community.

The resolution also calls on city and county officials and departments to “continue, with urgency, the review of policies and procedures for the purposes of eradicating implicit and explicit racial bias and develop instead policies and procedures that build racial equity.”

It also commits city and county departments “to collect data, disaggregated by race, on department staffing, procurement, contracting, and recipients of government intervention,” and present that data to the council and make it publicly available on the city’s website.

The resolution says the American Public Health Association found racism to be a barrier to health equity. It says the American Academy of Pediatrics has declared racism “a barrier to wellness that has a profound impact on the health status of children, adolescents, emerging adults and their families.”

The U.S. National Institutes of Health, according to the resolution, reports that multiple studies suggest that “experiences of racism or discrimination raise the risk of emotional and physical health problems, including depression, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and even death.”

The resolution says historic and systemic inequities put African Americans at higher risk of negative health outcomes, including COVID-19. Black residents in Marion County have tested positive for the coronavirus at rate nearly twice that of white residents, the resolution says. They make up 29% of Marion County’s population but account for 37% of the COVID-19 deaths.

The resolution follows a February resolution by the council that pledged to tackle racial and social disparities in the city.

“I want to thank my council colleagues who stood together tonight to address the public health crisis in our community caused by pervasive and systemic racism,” Indianapolis City-County Council President Vop Osili said in written comments. “Our city is calling for frank, meaningful dialogue and action on the impact of systemic racism on Black lives, and tonight was another important step forward in answering that call.”

The resolution comes as protests continue nationwide, including in Indianapolis, following the police killing of George Floyd, a black man from Minneapolis.

The council on Monday night also approved Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s plan to to immediately deploy nearly half of the $168 million it has received in federal coronavirus relief funds to help residents and businesses that have been affected by the pandemic.

The plan includes $20 million for contact tracing and virus testing, and $15 million for rental assistance to needy residents.

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