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City of Grand Rapids considering racism as a public health crisis

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The city of Grand Rapids may soon declare racism as a public health crisis.

The idea comes from the city’s department of Equity and Engagement, which presented the proposal to the city commission on Tuesday, and follows a similar declaration that Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer made last year.

If approved, the proposal would ask local leaders to help “dismantle racism and apply a public health framework to those efforts.”

Grand Rapids Director of Equity and Engagement’s Stacy Stout says, the effects of racism on discriminated persons can affect one’s physical health.

“The everyday interactions, the glances, the clutching of purses, the talking down upon, it does effect our stress levels and blood pressure,” Stout said. “And it is literally killing babies; the infant mortality rate among the Black and Latino is significantly higher than those from the white community.”

“And we want all of our babies to be healthy and survive.”

In a recent Kent County Community Health Needs Assessment, 63% of Black and 51% of Latino people surveyed said racism was a frequent or constant source of stress, compared to 17% of white respondents.

Stout told the City Commission on Tuesday that the declaration “is not the full solution. This resolution will not undo racism, but it is a step in the right direction.”

The commission will vote on the matter on September 28th.