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News & Press: MPCA News

Racism is a Public Health Issue

Wednesday, June 3, 2020  
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The Michigan Primary Care Association (MPCA) is horrified by the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. Their deaths are a part of a terrible saga of violence, of Black people who have suffered similar fates at the hands of our nation’s police, and we cannot, must not, turn away.

For more than 400 years, we have grappled with the legacy of slavery. Black Americans have suffered under restrictive voting laws, segregation, racially motivated hiring practices, redlining, predatory lending, and, of course, police brutality. If we are to move forward, to heal, we must acknowledge the collective history of the Jim Crow south and our country’s legislatively imposed practices that have deprived people of color of the economic, political, and social opportunities that white people have taken for granted. We must acknowledge that because of these hard truths, Black people in America still face massive disparities in wealth and health. And importantly, we must acknowledge that while many people face adversity, for white people, it is not because of the color of their skin.

Our colleagues of color at MPCA and within our membership are not OK. They are tired, they are hurting, they are overwhelmed, and they are disappointed that change has not come soon enough. We hear you. We are with you. Together, we are grieving, but we won’t stop fighting.

The health center movement was born during the struggle for racial justice in the 1960s as an answer to the clarion call for health equity — care for everyone, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or their ability to pay. Today, health centers in Michigan continue to lead the way for social change, caring for more than 709,000 people, many of whom face daily harm and discrimination in our most vulnerable communities.

Let us be clear: racism is a public health issue. The racism at the root of police violence against Black people is the same racism at the root of many health inequities people of color face — and that our health centers see reflected in their patients every day.

MPCA wants to be a part of a constructive and meaningful dialogue on the impact of institutional racism on our individual and collective health, including during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic has shined a bright light on the extent of this inequality, with data showing that Latinx and African Americans are disproportionately affected both by the disease and its economic impacts. People of color also face high rates of diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and cancer — largely due to circumstances, like racism, beyond their control.

MPCA is committed to helping our health centers document and address social determinants of health to ensure health equity and better health outcomes for vulnerable populations. We are bound and determined to work toward a future where quality health care is a reality for all. But we can’t do it alone. MPCA calls itself “the voice” of community health centers. And while MPCA will continue to be an advocate for people and policies that reflect that future vision, we are all responsible for challenging racism and the systems that uphold it, from our criminal justice system to our schools to our health care systems.

It’s at times like these that we, as a nation, cannot forget the issues — social injustice, racial inequalities — that stirred the health center movement into existence. If we find ourselves distracted by the looting and physical destruction caused by some protests, we will never heal the festering wound that racism has wrought on our country. For some, these conversations and the resulting work will be uncomfortable, and for others it will feel unnecessary — and that’s what makes it ever the more critical. Remember: when we uplift everyone, no one is left behind.

Our Black communities deserve to thrive — not just survive.

In solidarity,

Dennis Litos
Interim Chief Executive Officer
Michigan Primary Care Association

Molly Kaser
Board President, Michigan Primary Care Association
Chief Executive Officer, Center for Family Health

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