August 5, 2020 –I applaud Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Directive “Addressing Racism as a Public Health Crisis” issued today. This comprehensive look at racism and its impact on the health and well-being of individuals and communities due to systemic and interpersonal racism calls out a critical issue long overlooked in our society. 

It is crucial for the state to recognize the history of racism and its relationship to key social determinants of health including housing segregation and redlining, food deserts, higher infant mortality rates, and higher rates of chronic illness in the Black community. The Governor’s directive also points out the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people of color. 

But more than just identifying the problem and its impact, the directive calls for the “eradication of racism and discrimination.” It provides a specific plan of action including documentation of health outcomes based on racial disparities, new policies and planning, new programs supported by greater efforts toward community engagement, as well as enhanced communication and advocacy at all levels of state government. In addition, it requires all employees – current and new – to take part in implicit bias training. 

Please take a moment to review the document and think about what you can do to become more involved. Our work with Community Grand Rounds and Brave Talks here in Berrien County helped lay the foundation for expanded emphasis and action-oriented attention to the society-crippling impacts of racism. We join Governor Whitmer in working toward the day when we see that racism has truly been eradicated. 

News release, link to Executive Directive