Racism Is The Root Cause Of Health Inequities Between Whites and Blacks, Says L.A. County Director Of Public Health Barbara Ferrer

Tom Tapp

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Los Angeles Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer took time at the top of her coronavirus briefing on Monday to address the protests and violence of the past few days and the death of George Floyd.

“I think it’s important to comment on the connection between these two concerns,” she began, “the death of a black man at the hands of police and the experience of COVID-19 in L.A. County.

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“We know that black Americans fare worse on than other groups on virtually every measure of health status,” continued Ferrer, “and it has become all too common to blame this on individual behaviors when in fact the science is clear: The root cause of health inequities is racism and discrimination and how it limits access to the very opportunities and resources each of us need for optimal health and well-being.

“Science also tells us that a lifetime of stress associated the experiences of daily acts of discrimination and oppression play a major role,” said the health director. “It starts at birth withy higher rates of black infant mortality and shockingly higher rates of maternal mortality among black women and extends to adulthood, when we see black residents in L.A. County experiencing earlier onset of heart disease, hypertension and diabetes and earlier deaths.

“When I report each week that we have seen elevated numbers of black deaths in this county due to COVID-19,” said Ferrer, “I am reporting on the consequences of these iniquities. And it’s not just the direct victim of violence… who pays the price for brutality. It is an entire community that lives with the fear that next time it could be them, or their son or daughter, neighbor or friend.

“It is the consequence of that fear that we are seeing when we report instance after instance of inequality in health outcomes.”

Ferrer then called for “a rush to justice as the answer to events like this,” referring to an op-ed in the L.A. Times written by Lakers legend Kareen Abdul-Jabbar.

The essay, Ferrer continued, said that “the black community has to ask itself if being black mean sheltering at home for the rest of their lives, because being the racism virus infecting the country is more deadly than COVID-19.”

She then noted that “the op-ed piece called for a rush to justice as the answer to events like this.”

“As the department responsible for public health in L.A. County,” said Ferrer, “and in acknowledgment of our national association with the American Public Health Association declaring that addressing law enforcement violence is a public health issue, this rush to justice has to be part of our prescription as well.”

Watch the press conference below.


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