NACDD’s Statement and Response to Racism as a Public Health Crisis

ATLANTA (June 6, 2020): The following is a statement from National Association of Chronic Disease Directors Chief Executive Officer John W. Robitscher, MPH:

“The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors denounce violence against Black Americans and racism in our country, and we are committed to action. Public health must be anti-racist as we recognize racism as a public health crisis.

Our work to prevent the preventable leading causes of death and disability due to chronic disease may seem removed from the social unrest and anger we see in cities across the country. However, systemic racism, socioeconomic deprivation, race-neutral legislation, and the intentional withholding of political power from the Black community and other communities of color are factors that deeply intertwine with the health and wellbeing of these groups.   
 
BRFSS and other public health data prove that communities of color are disproportionately affected by poorer outcomes of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and obesity. Similarly, acts of violence and hatred toward communities of color are core causes of psychosocial stress. We have known these facts for decades, and yet, African Americans still have the lowest life-expectancy of all racial/ethnic groups living in the United States.
 
For this reason, we believe it is important to urge our governments and funders to consider racism and racially motivated violence as a public health crisis for the United States.

NACDD has been working for more than 15 years through our Health Equity Council to counter the root causes of unintentional bias and institutional racism as it exists in our State Health Departments. We continue this work alongside multi-year efforts to reduce the effects of the social determinants of health. We hope our Members and partners will join us in this unprecedented call to action that we hear in cities across the nation – we must heighten our work with local communities to enact policies that prevent further death and injury from racism.
 
Earlier this week, in lieu of our regularly scheduled staff meeting, NACDD staff participated in a conversation on race, racism, the demonstrations in our communities, and their impact on our lives and families. NACDD is committed to continuing the conversation internally with staff and consultants, which will lead to the development and implementation of internal strategies to combat racism.
 
There is so much work to be done, and we will continue to walk the journey to becoming an anti-racist organization and helping to lead other public health organizations to do the same.
 
On Friday, June 5, NACDD will close its National Office for a Day of Reflection on the social unrest and unjust treatment of communities of color in the United States. 
 
We urge you to stand with us in solidarity to continue our work confronting racism. Every moment we do not act is a failure on our profession and our nation.
 
We encourage all health departments to lead by example and facilitate thoughtful and informed discussions with their staff to encourage listening, learning, and action against racism.
 
Our Call to Action specifically for you, our Members, is to engage your State Health Departments in listening sessions with your Chronic Disease Units in open and transparent dialogue around issues of race and unintentional bias. I also encourage you to use our Health Equity Guide: Moving to Institutional Equity to help you consider ways you can dismantle racism within the institutions where you work.”

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The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors
Promoting Health. Preventing Disease.
The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) and its more than 7,000 Members seek to strengthen state-based leadership and expertise for chronic disease prevention and control in states and nationally. Established in 1988, in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NACDD is the only membership association of its kind to serve and represent every chronic disease division in all states and U.S. territories. For more information, visit chronicdisease.org.