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caption: A healthcare worker holds a sign that reads, 'Racism is a Public Health Crisis,' after thousands marched in protest of police violence and to demand justice for Black Americans unjustly killed at the hands of law enforcement, from Harborview Medical Center to Seattle City Hall on Saturday, June 6, 2020, in Seattle.
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A healthcare worker holds a sign that reads, 'Racism is a Public Health Crisis,' after thousands marched in protest of police violence and to demand justice for Black Americans unjustly killed at the hands of law enforcement, from Harborview Medical Center to Seattle City Hall on Saturday, June 6, 2020, in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

'Racism is a public health crisis' says King County health director

It’s not a new crisis, according to King County Public Health director Patty Hayes, who made the declaration at a special meeting of the Board of Health -- racism is a public health crisis.

Director Patty Hayes told the Board that decades of health data show racial inequities have hit Black and Indigenous communities the hardest. Compared to whites, they’re more likely to suffer negative outcomes.

“Diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes,” she said. “And (they) have higher rates of maternal and infant mortality and underweight babies and are likely to live shorter, less healthy lives overall.”

And when it comes to coronavirus, Hayes says Blacks and people of color have been disproportionately affected.

“It has to stop. We have to remake ourselves and our institutions to tear down inequities and stand for social justice.”

Hayes says the county needs to address these twin pandemics -- not just through public health, but through every department.