Racism is a Public Health Crisis

Racial inequities have been laid bare across the country, including here in California. BWWAP has worked to elevate the intersection between racism and health, focusing especially on reproductive justice. Our efforts have ranged from legislative items, budget requests, administrative asks, and media actions.

In the wake of the initial coronavirus outbreak, BWWAP fought against proposed budget cuts to public health programs that provide critical support Black women, such as the Black Infant Health Program. Too often, Black women are deprioritized and we refused to let that happen while a pandemic was unfolding and disproportionately impacting Black communities. In a related effort, we advocated for federal funding that would enable states to meet the needs of those suffering economic hardship due to the pandemic– knowing that Black women were about 2x as white met to likely to lose their job, be furloughed, or experience reduced pay/hours due to COVID-19.

As uprisings swept across the nation in the summer of 2020, BWWAP joined forces with several coalition partners to urge Governor Newsom to declare racism a public health crisis. In a glaring example of reproductive injustice, Black women have for decades been dying from pregnancy-related causes at 3 to 4 times the rate of California‚Äôs average, with somewhere between 40 to 70% of these deaths deemed preventable. Racial bias in our health system is partially to blame, and BWWAP has sponsored legislation in recent years to expose and address this. In 2021, we are advancing a comprehensive Momnibus package that increases access to doulas, collects data on racial disparities, and extends postpartum Medi-Cal coverage, among other things. We applaud Governor Newsom and the state legislature for recognizing the importance of addressing maternal health disparities in California, and are committed to continuing this work and educating decision-makers about the ways historic and systematic racism continues to harm the health of women and families. 

Our efforts to have racism acknowledged as a public health crisis extend to the 2021 state budget process. California is currently sitting on a budget surplus in the billions. It is time for our state to invest in We support the $500 million Racial Justice Innovation Fund budget request, which will help California take advantage of this window in time to reimagine our systems and structures and strive for a more equitable state. With bold and innovative solutions properly funded and led by stakeholders who can leverage their expertise, our state can be a national leader in the fight for racial justice. 

Structural racism is a complex problem that requires innovative solutions. We have lent our voice to the chorus demanding diverting resources away from the police and towards healthcare, affordable housing, and food security. We are committed to working with leaders to innovatively address the historic and systemic racism that has resulted in the racial disparities that continue to cause harm and inequities across our state.