WASHINGTON –  Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05) and Congressman Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) reintroduced a resolution to declare racism a public health crisis. This resolution aims to highlight the detrimental effects communities of color face when seeking treatment. Additionally, this resolution encourages concrete action to address health disparities and inequity across all societal sectors.

Congresswoman Hayes first introduced this legislation in the summer of 2020. By 2021, 20 towns across Connecticut had declared racism a public health crisis – including Farmington, New Britain, and Simsbury. In the same year, the Connecticut legislature enacted legislation to recognize the crisis and create a new commission charged with documenting the effect of racism on public health across the state.

While many actions have been taken at the state level, Congresswoman Hayes continues to advocate for the legislation to be adopted on a national level to highlight the overwhelming evidence of the intersection of racism and discrimination within the healthcare system.

“We do not and should not live in a colorblind society. Racism is embedded in many of the core systems we use in this country – including the healthcare system. The data is clear: Black & Brown Americans continue to be at higher risk for health issues and have a shorter life expectancy,” said Congresswoman Hayes. “If Congress does not acknowledge the barriers created by unconscious bias and take steps to fix it, then more people will be negatively impacted by our lack of action.”

“The first step in addressing the health inequities in America is to acknowledge we have a problem – and racism is a public health threat,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “For decades, systemic racism has accounted for large health inequities in communities of color -- whether it be reduced access to quality healthcare, underrepresentation in medical research, or disparities in social determinants of health. I’m proud to join Rep. Hayes in shedding light on this serious public health threat and look forward to working with my colleagues to find common sense solutions to address these challenges.”

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced a companion resolution in the United States Senate.

In August 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that Black Americans’ life expectancy declined to about 71 years old, six years lower than their white counterparts. In April 2023, the CDC reported that Black women are up to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. Minority groups also suffer from asthma disproportionately, have the highest number of emergency room visits and hospital stays due to asthma, and have higher mortality rates than their white counterparts. Additionally, compared to white people: Hispanics are 40% more likely to die from diabetes, Black Americans are twice as likely to die from diabetes and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are more than twice as likely to die from the disease.

The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated this disparity. Overall, racial and ethnic minorities in the United States have had higher infection rates, hospital stays, and death caused by the COVID-19 virus than whites, according to data from the CDC.

Find the full text of the resolution here.