The Riverside County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution declaring racism and inequality a public health crisis in the county.
The board also unanimously voted to
convene at least two listening sessions in September to gauge how the county might improve public health, social and other services.
The resolution recognizes that racism and inequality has resulted in “disparities in family stability, housing, education, employment, transportation, criminal justice and social determinants of health and mental wellness and creating significant barriers to achieving health equity.”
The September sessions will also serve as an opportunity for public safety officials to engage residents on matters that they feel are of major importance, including possible racial inequities in policing, according to the supervisors.
Riverside University Health System Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari said during Thursday’s meeting that data on emergency room visits to hypertension shows that African Americans rate per 100,000 is three times that of White people.
There were addditional data showing health issues for African Americans compared to White people per 100,000:
- African Americans are three times more likely to visit the hospital due to asthma;
- 2.5 times more likely to be hospitalized due to diabetes;
- Percent of babies with very low birth weight is 2 times that of Whites;
- Three times more likely to report infant mortality
Saruwatari also mentioned that African Americans and the Latinx population live below poverty at two and a half times those of the White population here in Riverside County.
In addition, adults within the Latinx community are 2.5 times less likely to have health insurance.
“There are so many examples where African Americans in particular, but certainly other communities of color, are disproportionately impacted when we look at health outcomes,” Saruwatari said. “Some might say, ‘Well, racism doesn’t determine your health.’ But I would argue it absolutely does because where people live work and play, affects health.”
Saruwatari also said there is an inequality in homeownership and renting in Riverside County.
County officials plan to work with the Department of Public Health, all County Departments, and other community partners to assess and apply an equity lens to internal policies and practices, adopt preventive measures, support the creation of a Riverside County task force. The county also plans to develop initiatives and programs to fight systemic racism and implicit bias to further health, wellness, and equity in all aspects of community life.
"(We need) to implement solutions to eliminate systemic inequity in all external services provided by the county," according to the declaration. “This attempts to acknowledge that the structure of our society has not met the aspirations of our founding fathers,” Washington said. “This is not finger-pointing. We live in the greatest, most diverse country on the face of the earth.”
The county’s resolution comes nearly two weeks after the Coachella city council passed a similar ordinance declaring systemic racism a human rights and public health crisis.
The city plans to create a committee to identify racism within the city’s operations and around the community.