Racism Targeted as a ‘Public Health Threat’ With New CDC Funding

Calling racism a “public health threat,” the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to boost agency investments in communities of color that are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The CDC will tap its Covid-19 funding to address disparities tied to health conditions, including the coronavirus, director Rochelle Walensky said Thursday in a statement. She also revealed the launch of a new web portal called Racism and Health, designed to document the agency’s efforts and be a landing page for public and scientific discourse on the topic.

Racism Targeted as a ‘Public Health Threat’ With New CDC Funding

Black, Latinx and other minority populations make up a disproportionate percentage of Covid-19 cases in the U.S., and Black Americans die of Covid at a higher rate than their non-Black counterparts. Meanwhile, vaccination rates for Whites are 1.7 times higher than those for Black people, according to Bloomberg’s demographic vaccination tracker.

“Racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of American,” Walensky said. “As a result, it affects the health of our entire nation.”

She didn’t say how much funding would be made available for the effort, and the CDC didn’t respond to requests for comment on the topic.

Less access to health care, higher rates of co-morbidities, and being more likely to live in densely populated housing are factors that put Black Americans at greater danger from the coronavirus. They are also more likely to be in public-facing jobs or in industries that don’t allow for remote work, increasing their risk of exposure to the virus.

Ethnic violence has also come into focus during the pandemic as attacks against Asian Americans have skyrocketed since it began. Around 3,800 anti-Asian incidents were reported over the last year, according to the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S.

Walensky said the CDC will also study the impact of social determinants on health outcomes that have “life-long negative effects on the mental and physical health of individuals in communities of color.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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