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Franklin County Board of Health declares racism a public health crisis

The board said they have joined other cities and counties in the United States by declaring racism a public health crisis.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Franklin County Board of Health has declared racism a public health crisis, saying the health impact in the county is affecting the entire community.

The board said they have joined other cities and counties in the United States by declaring racism a public health crisis.

“The public health crisis of racism is certainly not a new one,” Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce said. “However, COVID-19 has highlighted the effects of the health divide between black and white Ohioans. The pandemic has exacerbated the health disparities we see as a community and I am glad that Franklin County Public Health is moving forward with a focus on racial equity to improve public health and serve our constituents.”

In a news release citing the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, the board said racism and segregation have created a health divide resulting in black Ohioans having lower life expectancies, being far more likely to die prematurely and to die of heart disease or stroke.

The institute also said that black Ohioans also have a nearly three times higher rate of infant mortality, lower birth weights, are more likely to be overweight or obese, have adult onset diabetes, and have long-term complications from diabetes.

Additionally, the institute says racism, not race, also causes disproportionately high rates of homelessness, incarceration, poor education, and economic hardship for African Americans.

“Much of this work begins by understanding that race is a social construct. Our racial categorization of people has no biological basis. The genome project has proven to us that all humans are 99.9% the same,” board member Dr. Arthur James said. “The racial differences that we measure are the consequence of the cumulative disparate impact of centuries of policies, practices, and systems that have intentionally provided advantage to some while, simultaneously, intentionally subjecting others to disadvantage.”

With their declaration, the Franklin County Board of Health commits to the following:

  • Create an equity and justice-oriented organization, by identifying specific activities, policies and procedures to embrace diversity and to incorporate antiracism principles across the agency, leadership, staffing and contracting. This will include a plan to understand, address, and dismantle racism, in order to undo how racism affects individual and population health and provide tools to engage actively and authentically with communities of color.
  • Advocate for relevant policies that improve health in communities of color, and supports local, state, regional, and federal initiatives that advance efforts to dismantle systemic racism.
  • Work to build alliances and partnerships with other organizations that are confronting racism and encourage other local, state, regional, and national entities to recognize racism as a public health crisis.


“Racism may be intentional or unintentional,” said Joe Mazzola, Franklin County Health Commissioner. “We must address injustices caused by racism and we must support actions at all levels to ensure equal opportunity for all.”

To read the full declaration, click here.