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NACHC Statement Regarding the CDC Declaration of Racism as a Public Health Threat

 Contact: Amy Simmons Farber 202 309 0338

On behalf of Community Health Centers and the 30 million people they serve, we commend the statement by Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that racism is a serious public health threat that demands national attention. We cannot agree more. Two-thirds of our patient population are racial and ethnic minorities, populations who have been disproportionally affected in the COVID-19 pandemic, suffering higher mortality rates and hospitalizations than the general population. Additionally, many health center patients are most burdened by the economic impact of COVID-19, such as loss of jobs and insurance.

As healers whose mission emerged from the Civil Rights Movement, health centers have dedicated themselves to the task of eradicating poverty, illness, hate, bias, and brutality in our communities. The challenges are daunting. We have seen firsthand the social determinants of health that have affected Indigenous and People of Color, especially Black people, in areas such as policing, education, employment, housing, safety, and access to health care. Through our work in collecting social needs data through PRAPARE, we know that beyond COVID-19, health disparities continue to plague underserved and marginalized communities because of systemic racism, whether it is maternal and childbirth outcomes, cancer, depression and other chronic disease. We cannot begin to address these problems until we recognize and address the basic inhumanities and inequities a person may suffer in their community, workplace, or home. The acknowledgment from the CDC’s leadership is an important step in addressing structural and systemic racism.