IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Racism declared a New York City public health crisis

The New York City Board of Health’s resolution aims to recognize “this crisis and demand action,” said Dr. David A. Chokshi, chair of the board.
Image: Racism is officially a public health crisis in New York City.
Racism is officially a public health crisis in New York City.Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

The New York City Board of Health has declared racism a public health crisis and issued guidelines to achieve a more “racially just” recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To build a healthier New York City, we must confront racism as a public health crisis,” according to a statement from Dr. David A. Chokshi, who serves as the board chairperson and is the commissioner of the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “The COVID-19 pandemic magnified inequalities, leading to suffering disproportionally borne by communities of color in our City and across the nation.”

The health inequalities along racial lines are not inevitable, and the board’s resolution, which was adopted Monday, was meant to recognize “this crisis and demand action,” Chokshi said.

The board also offered recommendations for the city’s health department.

They include reviewing how policies have contributed to racial health inequities, making suggestions to the city’s Racial Justice Commission, forming a “data for equity” group to ensure the department interprets health data through an anti-racism perspective. Other recommendations include working with agencies to report fatalities and health conditions by race, and issuing a progress report twice a year to the board about the resolution.

The city’s Board of Health oversees the health code enforced by the Department of Health.

The department on June 8, 2020, released a statement declaring racism a public health crisis.

“The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is committed to addressing structural racism within our own institution and addressing racism as a social determinant of health as part of our mission to protect the health of New Yorkers,” the statement from 2020 read.

Other municipalities and agencies throughout the country have acknowledged a link between racism and public health.

The American Public Health Association reported that between 2019 and October 2020, about 70 cities, three dozen counties and three states declared racism a public health crisis.

Kansas City, Missouri, and Indianapolis used their declarations to determine how to dispense public funding. The mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, a predominantly white community of about 40,000 residents, used a declaration to make Juneteenth a paid city employee holiday. The Minnesota House passed a resolution vowing to “actively participate in the dismantling of racism.”

Earlier this month, a study led by researchers with the National Cancer Institute, concluded COVID-19 killed a disproportionate number of Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans last year and exacerbated health disparities among the groups.

In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called racism a “serious threat” to public health, becoming the largest, U.S.-based health agency to single out racism as having a “profound and negative impact on communities of color” and contributing to disproportionate mortality rates.

This story first appeared on