Salt Lake City mayor, city council declare racism a public health crisis

Salt Lake City, Utah, Mayor Erin Mendenhall said on Tuesday she and the city council have signed a joint resolution declaring racism a public health crisis. 

“We are publicly acknowledging the existence of a grave inequity many in our community have long experienced, and are committing ourselves to creating policies and ordinances that are anti-racist,” Mendenhall, a Democrat, wrote in a tweet announcing the resolution. 

The resolution, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said racism is a serious public health threat because it’s “proven to have harmful impacts on the mental and physical health of communities of color.” 

President Biden’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director declared racism “a serious threat to the public’s health” in April. 


Erin Mendenhall, mayor of Salt Lake City, speaks during the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. The summit brings together the leading minds in the tech industry for two-days of keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Salt Lake City resolution went on to say that racism affects many aspects of a person’s life, from where people live to where they work and go to school, “which creates inequities in access to a range of social and economic benefits” like housing, education, wealth and employment.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated how pre-existing structural inequities created heavier burdens of disease, death and social consequences onto communities of color in Utah,” it said. 

The resolution cited numerous statistics from the Utah Department of Public Health, including that odds of a coronavirus infection were three times more likely in Salt Lake City’s Latino neighborhoods, and while Latinos count for just above 14% of Utah’s population, they have contracted 40% of the state’s cases. American Indian and Alaska Native people had a death rate three times higher than the state average, Black people are more likely to die of colorectal cancer but less likely to get screened and Black and Asian babies are more likely to have a low birth weight it said. 


The city resolved to review public health data and increase transparency, take steps to address “poor outcomes” and “work with County Hleath partners to address systemic barriers to health including racism.” 

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