Racism is a public health crisis, Richmond City Council declares | Govt. and Politics

Jackie Lawrence, director of health equity for the combined health district of Richmond and Henrico County, described some of the disparities in health outcomes for Black families in the area as “staggering.”

In Richmond, she said, the infant mortality rate for Black families over the past 15 years has been 12 in every 1,000 cases, more than double the rate for white families. She said Black infants are five times more likely to be born early, which can lead to severe health complications, disability or death.

Lawrence said structural issues such as the lack of a grocery store in majority-Black neighborhoods, including in North Richmond’s Highland Park, make it difficult for families to make healthy dietary choices.

She said these marginalized communities are resilient but that more needs to be done.

“The numbers aren’t lying to us. We also have the lived experience of people verbally telling us — qualitative data — that racism is traumatic,” Lawrence said. “Resolutions like this help us understand this is a collective issue.”

Lawrence said the pandemic has highlighted many of these issues, as disparities in coronavirus cases and deaths have followed similar trend lines.

From June 21 to July 18, Black residents of Richmond accounted for 62% of the city’s COVID-19 cases where race and ethnicity was reported, while making up only 47% of the city’s population. White city residents made up 43% of Richmond’s population but accounted for only 14% of the city’s coronavirus cases in that period.