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Mecklenburg County Commissioners proclaim racism a public health crisis

Dr. Jacobs said he’s seen the generational impacts of racism, as African Americans are also more susceptible to specific health problems.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On Tuesday, the Mecklenburg County Commission voted on a proclamation declaring racism as a public health crisis. 

In the proclamation, the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners said they believe racism can form the basis for a public health crisis, impacting the entire county. 

"Looking at racism this way offers legislators, health officials, and others an opportunity to analyze data and discuss how to dismantle or change problematic institutions," the proclamation states. 

This move will allow them to direct funding towards issues that disadvantage the minority community.

“It's past time for something like this,” said Mecklenburg County commissioner Mark Jerrell.

Jerrell said he hoped the proclamation will pass.

“Racism has adversely contributed to the outcomes that we see,” Jerrell said, referring to outcomes like minorities living in food deserts and having less access to health care.

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“You don’t want to see racism in everything that you look at, but if you’re not looking for it diligently you will miss it,” said Dr. David Jacobs, medical director of trauma services at Atrium Health.

Dr. Jacobs said he’s seen the generational impacts of racism, as African Americans are also more susceptible to specific health problems.

“Increased in incidents of hypertension, lung problems, kidney problems, obesity, and generally toxic levels of stress,” Dr. Jacobs said.

“It’s going to take a tremendous amount of funding to level that playing field,” Jerrell said.

Jerrell said this proclamation would help give them that funding, and not just for medical issues.

“When you talk about health you have to talk about education, you have to talk about housing, transportation, childcare, all of these things are interconnected and interrelated,” Jerrell said.

If the measure passes, Jerrell said all of these things could be addressed under the banner of public health.

“It really gives us the bandwidth to again level the playing field and ensure that we deliver what’s needed to make all residents in our community healthy,” Jerrell said.

Jerrell said some of the ideas already tossed around is having a mobile health unit for the most vulnerable communities in need, expanding access and services to health departments, and addressing food deserts.

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