April 26, 2023
Pressley, Warren, Lee Re-Introduce Anti-Racism in Public Health Act
Bill Would Confront Structural Racism as a Public Health Crisis
Boston Received $493K Federal Grant Directly Informed by the Legislation
WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-12) reintroduced the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act of 2023, legislation that would declare racism a public health crisis, create a National Center for Anti-Racism, and establish a Law Enforcement Violence Prevention Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bill would help expand research and investment into the public health impacts of structural racism and make it a requirement for the federal government to actively develop anti-racist health policy.
Last year, Rep. Pressley, Boston Mayor Wu, and Boston Public Health Commissioner Dr. Bisola Ojikutu celebrated a first-of-its-kind, $493,000 federal grant to help Boston address the public health impacts of structural racism, which was directly informed by the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act. The lawmakers previously introduced the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act in September 2020.
“Until we confront structural racism as the public health crisis that it is, our communities – particularly our Black, brown, and Indigenous neighbors – will continue to be denied access to quality health care and racial disparities in health outcomes will persist,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “We need robust, comprehensive research on the public health impacts of structural racism and police brutality, and policy solutions to bring an end to these disparities once and for all. Our Anti-Racism in Public Health Act is the type of responsive legislation needed to help dismantle centuries of racism in our public health system. We have a mandate to deliver, and our communities deserve nothing less.”
“Centuries of structural racism have created deep disparities in health outcomes for Black and Brown communities that have gone unaddressed for far too long,” said Sen. Warren. “The Anti-Racism in Public Health Act will tackle these disparities head-on and declare racism the public health crisis that it is.”
“From asthma to maternal mortality to police brutality, the data shows communities of color experience higher health disparities in nearly every facet of life,” said Congresswoman Lee. “Centuries of structural racism have created an alarming public health crisis—one that demands a structural solution. Our bill, the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act, will require the federal government to begin actively developing anti-racist health policy, create a National Center for Anti-Racism at the CDC, expand federal research and investment into the public health impacts of structural racism, and more long-overdue action to remedy systemic injustice.”
In addition to allowing for comprehensive research of the impacts of structural racism on public health, the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act would:
- Create a “National Center for Anti-Racism” at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to declare racism as the public health crisis that it is and further develop the research base and knowledge of the science and practice of anti-racism. The Center would be responsible for:
- Conducting research, collecting data, awarding grants, and providing leadership and coordination on the science and practice of anti-racism in the provision of health care, the public health impacts of systemic racism, and the effectiveness of interventions to address these impacts;
- Creating at least three regional centers of excellence in anti-racism;
- Educating the public on the public health impacts of structural racism and anti-racist public health interventions;
- Consulting with other Centers at the CDC to ensure that scientific and programmatic activities initiated by the agency consider structural racism in their designs, conceptualizations, and executions; and
- Create a Law Enforcement Violence Prevention Program within the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC. Physical and psychological violence perpetuated by law enforcement results in deaths, injuries, trauma, and stress, and disproportionately affects marginalized populations. This bill would take a public health approach to combating police brutality and violence by creating a dedicated law enforcement violence prevention program at the CDC.
In October 2022, as a result of the lawmakers’ introduction of the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) awarded $493,000 for the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) to support their work to develop equitable responses and prevention of homelessness and substance use disorder.
Joining the lawmakers in co-sponsoring the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act are Representatives James P. McGovern (MA-02), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), John P. Sarbanes (MD-03), Brian Higgins (NY-26), Mark Takano (CA-39), Troy A. Carter, Sr. (LA-02), Bennie Thompson (MS-02), Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-25), Doris Matsui (CA-07), Cori Bush (MO-01), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Jasmine Crockett (TX-30), Terri A. Sewell (AL-07), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (FL-20), Melanie Stansbury (NM-01), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Jennifer McClellan (VA-04), Jerry Nadler (NY-12), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Glenn Ivey (MD-04), Darren Soto (FL-09), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02), Adam Smith (WA-09), Grace Meng (NY-06), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Donald M. Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Juan Vargas (CA-52), Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Nikema Williams (GA-05), Shontel Brown (OH-11), Andre Carson (IN-07), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Ilhan Omar (MN-05) and Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The legislation is endorsed by: Advocates for Youth, American Medical Student Association, Attleboro Council on Human Rights, Black Women’s Health Imperative, Boston Medical Center, Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Center for American Progress, Centro Pediátrico de Lactancia y Crianza, Center for Policing Equity, Center for Popular Democracy, Center for Reproductive Rights, Center for the Study of Racism, Social Justice & Health at UCLA, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Center for Biological Diversity, Community Catalyst, Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals, Diversity Uplifts, Inc., Every Mother Counts, Families USA, Feminist Women’s Health Center, Florida Health Justice Project, Friends of the 7 Acts of Change, Guttmacher Institute, Health Care For All – Massachusetts, Hispanic Federation, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, Institute for Healing Justice and Equity, The Justice Collaborative, Justice in Aging, Kentucky Equal Justice Center, The 2 Degrees Foundation, The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, March for Moms, MomsRising, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), National Birth Equity Collaborative, National Health Law Program, National Medical Association, National Partnership for Women & Families, NAACP, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Urban League, National Women’s Health Network, National Women’s Law Center, People’s Action, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), Physicians for Reproductive Health, PolicyLink, Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC), Power to Decide, Public Citizen, Restoring Our Own Through Transformation (ROOTT), Shades of Blue Project, SimpliFed, Social Security Works, UCLA’s COVID-19 Task Force on Racism and Equity, UnidosUS, Union for Reform Judaism, URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, We Must Count Coalition, WhattoExpect, Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network, YWCA USA, Young Invincibles, and 500 Women Scientists.
“In Boston, we’ve seen firsthand how implementing anti-racist public health policies can support local efforts to advance health equity, thanks to grant funding we received from the Office of Minority Health that was informed by this legislation,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “COVID-19 has exacerbated persistent racial health inequities across the country. Now more than ever, state and local governments need tools and resources to be able to respond to these challenges and improve the health and wellbeing of their most vulnerable communities.”
“The health of people and ecosystems are threatened by the same systems of abuse and exploitation,” said Kelley Dennings, a campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Anti-Racism in Public Health Act will help fight the public health effects of structural racism. A bill like this is sorely needed and long overdue.”
“As a partner with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 7 Acts of Change, The Friends of the 7 Acts of Change enthusiastically and fully endorse The Anti-Racism in Public Health Act,” said Carlton Duncan, MSPH, Chair, Friends of the 7 Acts of Change. “In addition, we stand ready to provide formal support as needed and appropriate.
“The U.S. health system is entrenched in inequity, with systemically excluded communities dealing with significantly worse health outcomes and experience in care due to racism, classism and other forms of oppression,” said Emily Stewart, Executive Director, Community Catalyst. “We are grateful to Rep. Pressley and Sen. Warren for their continued efforts to advance anti-racist public health policy. We join them in our shared vision to build a health system where everyone gets the care they need and is treated with dignity and respect, and that is accountable to each and every family and community across our country.”
“For America to reach its full potential we must address the underlying racial injustices that remain deeply embedded in our nation, deepening wounds that have yet to be addressed,” said Margaret Mitchell, CEO, YWCA USA. “The introduction of the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act lays important groundwork to continue building a more equitable future for people of color. YWCA applauds the introduction of this legislation and looks forward to working with Members of Congress to advance a public health approach that can effectively disrupt and end racial injustice in our communities.”
In November 2022, Rep. Pressley, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, and Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission Dr. Bisola Ojikutuheld a roundtable discussion with public health advocates to highlight the nearly $493,000 in new federal funding to help Boston address the public health impacts of structural racism.
In October 2022, Rep. Pressley, Senator Warren, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee applauded the new funding for BPHC, which was awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) alongside nine other grants to community organizations across the country. In total, HHS awarded over $4.8 million to support local efforts to address policies that may create or perpetuate health disparities and contribute to structural racism.