The YWCA along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recognizes racism as a public health crisis (www.CDC.gov and www.ywcausa.org).
There are deep inequities in housing, healthcare, education, public safety, transportation, food access and other social determinants of health.
The social determinants of health are the economic and social conditions that influence individual and group differences in health status. They are health factors found in one’s living and working conditions rather than individual risk factors such as behavioral risk factors or genetics.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown deep flaws and disproportionate impact on the poor, people of color, and isolated rural areas. As a society, we need to work harder to reduce these disparities.
As an example, according to recent data from the CDC, COVID-19 hospitalization rates among both Black and Hispanic or Latino individuals were about 4.7 times the rate of white people. Where you live and who you live with can make it challenging to avoid getting sick and getting treatment. Racial and ethnic minorities might be more likely to live in multi-generational homes, crowded conditions and densely populated areas. This can make social distancing difficult. The type of work you do also may contribute to your risk of getting COVID-19. Many people of color have jobs that are considered essential or cannot be done remotely and involve interaction with the public. These factors have resulted in increased exposure to the virus (www.MayoClinic.org).
What can we do to reduce these disparities? Some of the answers are seen in what has been accomplished with the pandemic. More education in everyday language and in places people use as well as going to where people are rather than where it is convenient for those providing the service is now beginning.
But, more fundamentally, we need to eliminate racism.
There are structural barriers that have developed over many decades that must be dismantled. The YWCA of Genesee County is ready to work with you in moving our society and our county to a place of equality for all. Call (585) 343-5808 today and join us as we move forward.
Ruth Andes is a member of the YWCA of Genesee County Board of Directors and serves as the chair of its Advocacy Committee. This letter is submitted on behalf of the Board.