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Ideastream Public Media investigates how racism contributes to poor health outcomes in the Cleveland area and uncovers what local institutions are doing to tear down the structural barriers to good health.

Cleveland Association of Black Journalists to host forum on racism as a public health crisis

Black health
Roman Zaiets
The panel will include an elected official, a hospital administrator, a healthcare provider, community advocates and a patient, according to the Greater Cleveland Association of Black Journalists (GCLEABJ).

The Greater Cleveland Association of Black Journalists (GCLEABJ) will host a town hall-style forum to bring awareness to recent legislation by the city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County that declared racism a public health crisis.

The event will be held on Saturday, April 30 from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the East Cleveland Public Library on Euclid Avenue, according to Rhonda Crowder, the GCLEABJ’s vice president of print and one of the town hall’s moderators.

Cleveland declared racism a public health crisis in June 2020 and created a task force to address racial equity. However, little is known about what this group is doing, Crowder said.

“We still haven’t heard a whole lot about what actions or steps have been taking place since then, so we thought it would be a great idea to begin to explore that question of who needs to be held accountable, and to what are we to hold them accountable to,” Crowder said.

Two of the event’s panelists serve on the city’s task force: Ward 7 Councilwoman Stephanie Howse and Jazmin Long, CEO of Birthing Beautiful Communities.

“We want to know – what is the plan?” Crowder said. “Has there been any progress? How soon can we expect some kind of action to be taking place?”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, racism is a threat to public health because it creates policies, practices and norms that unfairly disadvantage people based on the way they look or the color of their skin.

Those structures negatively affect the mental and physical health of millions of people, the CDC reports, and a growing body of research shows that centuries of racism affect whether people have access to social and economic benefits. Those benefits, including housing, wealth and employment, are key drivers of health inequities because they place people of color at greater risk for poor health outcomes, the CDC finds.

Another key goal of the town hall is to educate community members about these structures, and how they have led to modern-day health disparities, Crowder added.

“We must be innovative and find solutions to the current drivers of disparities,” said Yvonka Hall, executive director of the Black Health Coalition and another one of the event’s moderators. “We can’t talk about racism as a public health crisis and do nothing to address the inequalities in education, employment, housing and health. Changing our outcomes starts with accountability and action.”

Other panelists at the town hall include Tiffany Short, the director of Culture and Organizational Effectiveness at MetroHealth; SeMia Bray, co-facilitator of Black Environmental Leaders; Dr. James Brown; and Vicki Dansby, a cancer survivor, the release said.

GCLEABJ member Stephanie Phelps will also serve as a moderator.

The event is free and the public is welcome.

Editor’s note: This program received support from Ideastream Public Media and the Cleveland Foundation for the Connecting the Dots project.

Updated: April 28, 2022 at 4:15 PM EDT