Racism declared public health crisis in Utah’s largest city

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Racism has been declared a public health crisis in Utah’s capital city.

On Tuesday, the Salt Lake City Council and Mayor Erin Mendenhall adopted a joint resolution to make the declaration.

The city’s declaration outlines the impacts of structural and interpersonal racism, which are proven to have detrimental impacts on the mental and physical health of communities of color, according to officials.

A group of community leaders, who are in or working toward health-related careers, proposed a resolution to declare racism a public health crisis to the City. The proposal – which you can see here – was reviewed and approved by the Salt Lake City Human Rights Coalition and the Commission on Racial Equity in Policing.

“This is an important declaration for us to make as a City. Not only are we publicly acknowledging the existence of a grave inequity that many in our community have known and experienced for so long, we are also committing ourselves to the creation of policies and ordinances that are anti-racist,” Mayor Mendenhall says.

According to the city, racism direct impacts access to everyday resources like education, housing, employment, and healthcare. These effects can lead to negative outcomes on physical and mental health.

Through the pandemic, the city says the impacts of racism on public health and the heavier burden on communities of color have been well documented.

The City offered these examples of the impacts on racism in recent months:

  • At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the odds of being infected were three times more likely in Glendale and two times more likely in Rose Park, where there are high percentages of Latino and nonwhite residents
  • Latino communities account for 14.2% of Utah’s population, but 40% of the state’s COVID-19 cases
  • American Indian and Alaskan Native communities in Utah had a case fatality rate roughly three times higher than the state average

The resolution now commits that as Salt Lake City continues to work going forward, it will continue to be critical about the policies and ordinances created to ensure they do not add to the compounding of inequities. Additionally, the City will work to “undo the damage done over many years.”

You can view the complete resolution here.

During the General Legislative Session earlier this year, Representative Sandra Hollins (D-Salt Lake City) proposed a resolution to declare “racism a moral and public health crisis” in Utah. While it received a favorable recommendation in a House committee, the resolution did not pass out of the House.

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