Genesee County declares racism a public health emergency

GENESEE COUNTY — The Genesee County Board of Commissioners has approved a resolution declaring racism to be a public health crisis.

The emergency declaration, which was made at the June 10 Genesee County Board of Commissioners meeting, followed a request from the Genesee County Board of Health (GCBOH) and Dr. Kent Key, a researcher with Michigan State University. In summary, the resolution identifies racism as a “public health crisis affecting our entire society” and seeks to address issues of systemic racism in Genesee County.

Furthermore, the declaration states the county board’s intent to identify how racism affects the health and well-being of minority communities in the county, particularly in areas of access to healthcare and medical treatment.

“This resolution is very important to starting conversations and to look at some of the effects of racism in this community,” said Commissioner Bryant Nolden, who is also the chairman of the county health board. “I am in full support of this resolution going forward.”

In addition to advocating for policy changes, the resolution also supports the county’s mission to build partnerships with healthcare providers and other organizations that are confronting racially unjust practices in government, law enforcement and the medical field.

Commissioner David Martin, who supported the declaration, said that the county needs to make a concerted effort to target underlying causes of racism as it relates to public health and inequities in healthcare.

“I just don’t want this to be lip service,” he said. “What is the base problem? Is it societal, is it state funding, is it Medicaid? I want to find out why this has been happening for so long.”

While the emergency declaration does not specifically address funding, the resolution will make the county eligible for financial help to complete research and social justice-based initiatives.

Genesee County’s declaration came just days after a similar resolution was passed by Flint City Council. Numerous municipalities and governments across the country have adopted resolutions to address racism as a public health crisis, in the wake of nationwide protests against racial inequality and police brutality.