Perspective: Racism is ‘pernicious, pervasive, cutting short lives’

The legacy of slavery in the U.S. has led to a wide range of health inequalities that have plagued the African American community for years, wrote Michelle Williams, dean of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in a June 17, 2020 Perspective article in The Economist.

“Racism is still pernicious, pervasive and cutting short the lives of black Americans to this day,” wrote Williams. “This fact is inescapable in the midst of a pandemic which is killing black Americans at nearly three times the rate of white Americans.”

To address the inequities, Williams urged “radical, large-scale investment in public health.”

Also, in a June 17 article, Williams responded to recent declarations by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Cambridge mayor Sumbul Siddiqui that racism is a public health crisis. She called the moves “encouraging,” adding, “We can’t change what we haven’t first acknowledged.”

She stressed, however, that budgets are what convey the “true priorities” of an institution or municipality. “It is imperative that we invest in actions across all sectors of government—from criminal justice to health care to education to economic development—to dismantle the devastating health effects of racism,” she said.

Read the Economist article: Racism is a public health issue

Read the article: Here’s why declaring racism a public health crisis is ‘encouraging,’ but just a start, according to Harvard public health dean

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