Clark County declares racism a public health crisis

Clark County

'We are saying this matters to us'

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — One of the groups hardest hit by the pandemic is the Hispanic, Latinx community. In Clark County, they make up 10% of the population but 28% of the total COVID cases.

Back in the summer, the Southwest League of United Latin American Citizens wrote a letter to the board to look at the issue of racism as a public health crisis. On Wednesday, the Clark County Council declared racism a public health crisis.

Temple Lentz, the Clark County Councilor for District 1, said the reason she brought this resolution forward is because they “are seeing even more disparities in health equities than ever before.”

Clark County Councilor Temple Lentz, December 2, 2020 (KOIN)

One of the goals is to bring resources like grant money to fund programs that help reduce disparities, she said.

“Having a resolution like this says that we, Clark County as an agency and as the governing body for a county of 500,000 people, say this is something we take seriously,” Lentz said. “For the residents we have who are parts of communities of color, we are saying this matters to us.”

She noted there are “three decades of research that back up this idea that the social indicators of health have an impact on a communities public health. So it isn’t just if someone is a healthy person but all these other social determinants go into whether or not someone is able to live their fullest healthiest life.”

Research shows access to housing, education and the kinds of jobs people are able to get “are contributed to by systemic racism. When we say systemic racism we mean this structural institutional racism.”

Ed Hamilton Rosales, the president of the Southwest Washington LULAC, said he hopes the county can improve access to testing and healthcare. He told KOIN 6 News the only way for many in the community to get tested was from outbreaks at plants.

“I’d like to have more testing available to them. We are dangerously behind in testing access and even with the free clinics that are making tests available to our undocumented and unmanaged communities there is still cost involved,” Rosales said. “It’s not the cost of the test, it’s the cost of the doctor’s visit to get that test.”

And he said that the access to care, to funds, “the ability to survive, feed your family changes because of the color of your skin.”

Lentz said Latinx people aren’t more suspectable to COVID as people.

“That’s not a thing. It’s the exposure and probability of getting it are higher because of these social circumstances and also access to quality care, testing and treatment.”

Now that the resolution has passed, Lentz said that changes thing for the county council.

“This now is one the county’s priorities as we begin to look at our budget, and funding it is officially one of the lenses we need to look through.”

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

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