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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: February 26, 2021 12:05 PM
From: Representative Jake Wheatley, Jr.
To: All House members
Subject: Declaring Racism as a Public Health Crisis
Studies have demonstrated the link between chronic stress and high blood pressure, the increased maternal mortality rate among black and indigenous women, and the elevated prevalence of diabetes in Black, Latino and especially Native American populations. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare these inequities. At the same time, outcry over systemic racism and police brutality against African Americans has roiled the nation, and the phrase, “Racism is a public health issue” has become an internet refrain.

Racism is a public health problem that contributes to higher levels of stress, greater exposure to risk factors, reduced access to medical and social services, and ultimately to excess levels of disease, disability and death. As public policy leaders, we must respond to those in the field of public health telling us these issues are of concern to us all.

I am introducing legislation that would establish the Racial Equity Task Force within the Department of Health, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, intended to help address systemic racism that results in shorter life expectancies, poorer health conditions, lower incomes and other adverse effects that disproportionately affects Black, Brown and Indigenous communities.

The Task Force would be charged with reviewing and providing recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly on policies to reduce disparities between people of color and white residents throughout the Commonwealth. We have the tools to identify ways in which discrimination is hurting the health and well-being of the people we represent.  If we miss this unique opportunity to act, we will be responsible for ultimately cutting lives short. Let’s not allow the moment and growing call for justice to fade without making meaningful policy change.

Please join me in co-sponsorship, so we can declare racism a public health crisis once and for all.