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Racism as a Root Cause of Disease: A Statement and Call to Action by Public Health Faculty

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Faculty members from Cal State Fullerton’s Department of Public Health have issued a statement calling for the eradication of racism to achieve health equity and justice. The statement was authored by Mojgan Sami, Portia Jackson Preston, Maria Koleilat, Lilia Espinoza and Tabashir Z. Nobari:

“The COVID-19 pandemic increased the collective understanding of the role of public health in the prevention of disease and injury in a population. The public was suddenly made aware of epidemiological concepts of contact tracing, quarantine and isolation as mitigation measures for infectious disease. Debates swirled in the media around ‘flattening the curve,’ face covers, the amount of space needed for physical distancing and when we can get ‘back to normal.’

“Just as we were trying to get a handle on the impacts for hospital preparedness and controlling transmission rates, important health disparities began to emerge in morbidity and mortality rates in Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander and Native American communities. As researchers called for more disaggregated data on transmission rates, public health and social justice advocates reminded us that COVID-19 did not create the disparities in our country. COVID-19 exacerbated the existing social inequities in our communities such as housing, income and food insecurities, lack of legal documentation and health insurance, and the disproportionate amount of communities of color in essential jobs with limited to no leave pay.

“The conversations around social determinants of health have increased in urgency as we
collectively witnessed the murder of yet another black man, Mr. George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota by a police officer on May 25, 2020. This heinous act comes on the heels of the senseless killing of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and countless others who suffer from the legacy of white privilege, a legacy that is unfortunately embedded in medical and health institutions. The growing swell of protests nationwide calling for an end to police violence against black bodies, and justice for the victims, is deeper than a call to reform existing institutions. It requires a deeper understanding of the fundamental assumptions that underpin the creation of our modern-day institutions, which include medical and health systems.”

Continue reading on the Department of Public Health website.