CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, seen last week at FEMA mass vaccination site in Boston, said Thursday that the CDC is taking steps to address the impact of racism on public health. Erin Clark/Getty Images
Racism is a scourge in American society. It's also a serious public health threat, according to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a statement released Thursday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky pointed to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, as seen in case numbers, deaths and social consequence.
"Yet, the disparities seen over the past year were not a result of COVID-19," Walensky said. "Instead, the pandemic illuminated inequities that have existed for generations and revealed for all of America a known, but often unaddressed, epidemic impacting public health: racism."
"What we know is this: racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans," she added. "As a result, it affects the health of our entire nation. Racism is not just the discrimination against one group based on the color of their skin or their race or ethnicity, but the structural barriers 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 community. These social determinants of health have life-long negative effects on the mental and physical health of individuals in communities of color."