Press Release

Big Cities Health Coalition Statement on Protests and Creating a More Equitable Society

June 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 24, 2020             

Chrissie Juliano, MPP, Executive Director, issued the following statement:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The mission of Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) is Advancing equity and health for present and future generations. Achieving this mission has never felt so far off, yet so important. Our country is broken, and it will take all of us to fix it. To do so, we must give voice to the fact that structural racism is at the root of many of our systems and institutions that have never really worked equitably for all. In the midst of a once in a lifetime pandemic that is ravaging communities of color, and yet another unnecessary death of a black man at the hands of a police officer, our society must begin to treat racism as a public health issue.  

With decades of discrimination, a country —  whose nerves were so frayed by the current pandemic —  finally broke. We have seen protests, some peaceful, some not, from coast-to-coast. This, coupled with an unprecedented, aggressive response from the federal government and, in some places, law enforcement, has resulted in even more discord. The contrast between the reaction to those protesting structural racism and other heavily armed protestors that appeared in seats of power across the country to protest stay-at-home orders meant to protect the public’s health is stark and illustrates just how much work we all have to do.

BCHC member cities are on the front lines of so many world-altering events as they occur – terrorist attacks, early cases of COVID-19, measles outbreaks – and yes, today, even protests, the likes of which this country hasn’t seen since the 1960’s. It is our sincere hope that some good comes from so much anger, frustration, and sadness. As protectors of the public’s health, our members will work to do everything in their power to keep their communities as healthy and safe as possible, while also speaking hard truths as policy decisions are being made today and in the future. Likewise, BCHC staff will do everything in our power to support our members in these actions, ensure that our own actions and goals are proactive and equitable, and importantly, work with our partners across disciplines to truly be the change we want to see.

Achieving equity and health for future generations will not be easy. Declaring racism as a public health issue may help to reframe the conversation and illustrate that we are all only as healthy as the least healthy among us, which in some cases is out of an individual’s control. Moving forward, we must all work harder to diminish discrimination and trauma that is all too often experienced throughout communities of color. Doing so will mean rebuilding our communities, and in some cases, the systems within which we operate, so that each and every person, no matter where they live, the color of their skin, or where they were born, has the opportunity to live a healthy, full, and productive life.

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Contact: Max Mays, mays@bigcitieshealth.org  
About the Big Cities Health Coalition

The Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) is a forum for the leaders of America’s largest metropolitan health departments to exchange strategies and jointly address issues to promote and protect the health and safety of their residents. Collectively, BCHC member jurisdictions directly impact nearly 62 million people, or one in five Americans. For more information, visit http://www.bigcitieshealth.org.