The governor should declare racism to be a public health emergency
To Gov. Ned Lamont,
We have all learned that there is a high risk of COVID-19 infection in the African-American and Hispanic communities in our state. A higher mortality rate has been seen in the same communities. This should not come as a big surprise to a lot of the people who have been in the field. Health care professionals have witnessed health disparities, and their resultant outcomes, in our state for many years.
The health disparities in Connecticut have been well documented and following are some of the statistics gathered by the Connecticut Health Foundation. These include:
- Babies born to black mothers in Connecticut are more than four times as likely to die in their first year of life compared with babies born to white mothers.
- Black residents with diabetes are nearly four times as likely as white residents with diabetes to have lower extremities amputations; they are more than twice as likely to die from diabetes.
- Compared to their white peers, black children and teens are five and a half times more likely to go to the Emergency Department because of asthma and Hispanic children and teens are about four and a half times as likely to go to the emergency room for asthma.
- Black men are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as white men.
- A nationwide study showed that black women with college degree or higher were 1.6 times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes as white women without high school diplomas.
- We have also learned that Hispanic patients were half as likely to be given pain medications when they went to the emergency room with broken bones.
- In a 2014 study in Connecticut, black and Hispanic residents could not afford food for their families two times more than their white counterparts.
- About one-third of Hispanic residents in the State of Connecticut in a 2016 study did not have a personal physician.
It is well recognized that racial bias and discrimination have significant negative physical and mental health consequences. Incidents of depression, anxiety, hypertension, breast cancer and pre-term birth, as well as low-birth rate babies, are associated just with the presence of racial bias and discrimination. This is based on the body’s stress response system becoming much more active because of the experiences of the individual and has long-term physical and psychological effects.
The above-mentioned situation has been magnified in the last many weeks where the likelihood of death from COVID-19 is much higher among minority groups.
In our current environment, without having a comprehensive strategy for addressing the causes of systematic racism including its relationship with housing, education, economic opportunities, and the criminal justice system, racism has reached a crisis level.
In view of the above and so many more reasons, I urge you to declare racism as a Public Health Emergency in the State of Connecticut. I look forward to working with you and my fellow legislators to make addressing this as one of the top priorities at all levels within our state.
State Sen. Saud Anwar represents the 3rd Senate District of East Hartford, East Windsor, Ellington and South Windsor.
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