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SB-17 Public health crisis: racism.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 12/07/2020 09:00 PM


Senate Bill
No. 17

Introduced by Senator Pan
(Principal coauthors: Assembly Members Arambula and Chiu)
(Coauthor: Senator Durazo)
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Robert Rivas and Weber)

December 07, 2020

An act relating to public health.


SB 17, as introduced, Pan. Public health crisis: racism.
Existing law establishes an Office of Health Equity in the State Department of Public Health for purposes of aligning state resources, decisionmaking, and programs to accomplish certain goals related to health equity and protecting vulnerable communities. Existing law requires the office to develop department-wide plans to close the gaps in health status and access to care among the state’s diverse racial and ethnic communities, women, persons with disabilities, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning communities, as specified. Existing law requires the office to work with the Health in All Policies Task Force to assist state agencies and departments in developing policies, systems, programs, and environmental change strategies that have population health impacts by, among other things, prioritizing building cross-sectoral partnerships within and across departments and agencies to change policies and practices to advance health equity.
This bill would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to require the department, in collaboration with the Health in All Policies Program, the Office of Health Equity, and other relevant departments, agencies, and stakeholders, to address racism as a public health crisis.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NO   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Racism is the systemic subordination of members of targeted racial groups who have historically had relatively little social power in the United States by members of the racial groups who have more social power. Racism in the United States is informed by over 400 years of Black slavery, settler colonialism, and American neoimperialism.
(b) Racism, as a negative social system, is supported by the actions of individuals, cultural norms and values, institutional structures, practices of society, and laws and regulations imposed by government.
(c) Through the “Three-Fifths Compromise,” racism was embedded as a founding principle in the United States Constitution. It is an ugly stain that continues to haunt our nation and that we must confront and actively dismantle.
(d) Public health is the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities by promoting healthy lifestyles, researching disease and injury prevention, and detecting, preventing, and responding to infectious diseases.
(e) Many government policies, institutional practices, and individual actions continue to be imbued, both consciously and unconsciously, with racist assumptions and practices that have created unhealthy physical and social conditions for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and thereby prevent BIPOC communities from achieving good public health.
(f) For instance, the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and discriminatory housing policies against Black people have restricted the ability of Black families to build generational wealth, in comparison to White families, leading to income inequality. Income inequality and poverty have been well researched to be negative social determinants of health. Children who grow up in poverty, and especially those who are BIPOC, are more likely to be exposed to risk factors for obesity, elevated blood lead levels, and experience more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
(g) Racism in government policies, institutional practices, and income inequality also results in BIPOC communities being more likely to live near polluters, breathe polluted air, and be impacted disproportionately by the effects of climate change. Breathing in dangerous substances in the air has been linked to asthma, other chronic respiratory illnesses, and some cancers. In California, Black and Native American individuals have a significantly higher prevalence of asthma and are more likely to experience an avoidable hospitalization due to asthma.
(h) BIPOC communities experience racial disparities in accessing health care and receiving quality care. For example, Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women. Research indicates these disparities persist in spite of income differences and can often be attributed to Black women receiving discriminatory care, such as health care providers dismissing symptoms raised by Black women or racist assumptions about pain thresholds experienced by Black people.
(i) Black transwomen suffer from employment, housing, and educational discrimination and police brutality that result in the most acute health disparities. Government policies, such as recent federal actions that encourage homeless shelters, social services, educational institutions, and health care providers to discriminate against transgender people and overlook the deleterious impacts of racism, actively prevent Black transwomen from accessing services critical to achieving optimal health.
(j) On an individual physiological level, studies show that chronic stress from individual and systemic acts of racism and discrimination trigger high blood pressure, heart disease, immunodeficiency, and result in accelerated aging.
(k) The COVID-19 pandemic, the ensuing economic crisis, and recent protests against institutional violence committed against Black communities again highlight the racial injustices and health disparities that have long threatened BIPOC communities.
(l) In California, Black and Latino individuals are more likely to have existing health conditions that make them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19, experience more severe symptoms, and suffer from higher mortality rates. BIPOC tend to work in essential jobs that may lead to a higher likelihood of being exposed to COVID-19, or in jobs that have an inability to work remotely and, therefore, are more severely impacted by the economic crisis.
(m) Racism results in the underinvestment of social, health, and educational services in BIPOC communities and an overinvestment of disproportionate and inappropriate policing by law enforcement. Racism threatens to endanger the health of individuals, the community, and public health.
(n) Accordingly, California, joining a growing list of cities and counties across the state and country to acknowledge the long-standing impacts of systemic racism, declares racism as a public health crisis. In order to advance and improve public health for all Californians, the state must approach laws and regulations with an antiracist, Health in All policy equity-driven focus that interrogates whether policies play a role in upholding or dismantling racist systems, and must secure adequate resources to address the crisis.

SEC. 2.

 It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to require the State Department of Public Health, in collaboration with the Health in All Policies Program, the Office of Health Equity, and other relevant departments, agencies, and stakeholders, to address racism as a public health crisis.