CDC Declares Racism a Serious Public Health Threat

This week, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH declared racism a serious public health threat. Director Walensky, as part of the agency’s declaration, announced a series of new efforts being led by the CDC to accelerate its work to address racism as a fundamental driver of racial and health inequities in the U.S.

The CDC statement, in part, highlights the structural barriers present in the U.S. that impact racial and ethnic groups differently to influence where a person lives, where they work, where their children play, and where they worship and gather in the community. The statement further specifies that structural inequities “have resulted in stark racial and ethnic health disparities that are severe, far-reaching, and unacceptable.”

The CDC identifies the following actions it intends to undertake to address the impact of racism on public health:

  • The CDC will continue to study the impact of social determinants on health outcomes, expand the body of evidence on how racism affects health, and propose and implement solutions to address this.
  • With COVID-19 funding, the CDC is making new and expanded investments in racial and ethnic minority communities and other disproportionately affected communities around the country, establishing a durable infrastructure that will provide the foundation and resources to address disparities related to COVID-19 and other health conditions.
  • The CDC is expanding its internal agency efforts to foster greater diversity and create an inclusive and affirming environment for all.
  • The CDC is launching a new web portal “Racism and Health” as part of its ongoing commitment to serve as a catalyst for public and scientific discourse around racism and health, and to be accountable for its progress.

The CDC’s statement follows a similar declaration made by CHEAC in June 2020 and by county associations in March 2021, identifying racism as a public health crisis. A statement from CDC Director Walensky is available here. CDC’s new web portal on racism and public health is accessible here.