CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – Since the pandemic, the CDC has had time to collect health data between races and highlight racial disparities. Just last week the CDC declared racism a public health threat.
The people I spoke with say the CDC announcing this is something many African Americans have been aware of for years, but they have a sense of relief it’s finally being recognized.
“At what point were you going to say black people are getting treated differently and it’s a health issue. It affects me mentally, financially and it just affects me but I’m thankful they finally said something,” Martec Washington, a community advocate said.
The CDC is the largest public health group to declare racism as a public health threat but joins many other groups that have done the same. The American Public Health Association says that more than 170 local and state leaders and public health entities have declared racism a public health crisis or emergency.
“Black people have underlying conditions that make us more susceptible to COVID-19 like obesity, hypertension and diabetes and because of that, we do die at a higher rate,” Shayla Leftridge, Director of Community Outreach for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at West Virginia Health Right said.
Harvard Medical School researchers found people of color were also more likely to work with people who had or suspected to have COVID-19.
“When we went in the hospital, we were more likely to die. We were more likely to have worst treatment. We were more likely as staff to contract COVID-19 at a higher rate. Also, to have less PPE,” Leftridge said.
In order to help, West Virginia health right has decided to highlight racial disparities right here in Charleston.
“We have decided to open a clinic on the west side of Charleston where there’s a little more need and we’re going to focus on lots of different things,” Leftridge said.
“Being black is actually a health risk in itself and I’m glad the CDC is going to take action,” Washington said.
The CDC listed some ways it will address racism. The agency is using federal COVID-19 funding to invest in communities of color, as well as other disproportionately affected groups, to address health care gaps.