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Orange County declares racism a ‘public health crisis’

via Andrew Do

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    Before you read:

    Report: Anti-AAPI hate crimes in Orange County continued to surge in 2021

    Anti-Asian hate incidents spike by 1,800% in Orange County

    The Orange County Board of Supervisors has officially declared racism and societal inequity a public health crisis.

    The Republican-majority board unanimously approved the declaration on Tuesday, citing studies and data that show the health effects of race-based attacks and violence against people of color. With the successful vote, the county joins other jurisdictions across the country that have passed similar resolutions. 

    According to the Orange County Human Relations Commission, the county’s documented hate crimes and related incidents skyrocketed 165 percent from 2016 to 2021.

    The resolution seeks an analysis of the existing policies and practices in the county to ensure that racial and health equity are protected and make the local government more inclusive and diverse. It also aims to educate the community about “systemic inequities from a health and human services perspective.”

    During the meeting, Supervisor Andrew Do spoke about experiencing hate firsthand when he had bottles and other things thrown at him while living in Huntington Beach.

    OC Health Officer Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong cited issues encountered during the COVID-19 crisis, in which hospitalization and deaths among Black, Hispanic, Native American and Alaskan residents were significantly higher than those among white residents.  

    “We know nationwide that there are certain racial and ethnic minority groups that have experienced much higher rates of chronic illness,” she was quoted by the OC Register as saying. “It’s not a clear line directly connecting a chronic condition and racism, but we do know that when you’re impacted by it either directly or indirectly, it does take its toll.”

    Do later told CNN that he is concerned about racism getting “hijacked by people on either end of the spectrum – either to deny that racism exists, or to use it as an excuse for big government programs that are not necessarily related to racism.”

    According to Chinsio-Kwong, the local health agency has also started work on the “Equity in OC” initiative, which involves connecting with the different racial communities in the county.

    Funded by a $22.8 million federal grant, the initiative will collect data and strategize on ways to improve community health while also providing information, training and access to healthy foods.

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