State Action on Equity Honors Martin Luther King’s Legacy
Leading up to Monday’s holiday celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. we remember his famous words, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman”. Today, more than 50 years after Dr. King spoke these words, we still have far to go to achieve health justice for everybody. From measures such as life expectancy, maternal and infant mortality, levels of chronic illness, or deaths from COVID, racial and ethnic health disparities are rampant in our nation and in our state.
Legislators responded to powerful advocacy in the wake of COVID and a reckoning with our racist legacy. A sweeping new state law focused on building health equity opens with a declaration that “racism constitutes a public health crisis.”
AN ACT EQUALIZING COMPREHENSIVE ACCESS TO MENTAL, BEHAVIORAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH CARE IN RESPONSE TO THE PANDEMIC (PA-21-35), helps our state build toward equity.
It creates a cross-sector Commission on Racial Equity in Public Health, which held its first meeting in November. Because health can be impacted by social and economic factors, the commission will collect data and create a plan to reduce racial disparities by 70% in multiple areas, including education, criminal justice, poverty, and housing security. It will dig in on racial disparities evident in health and health care such as:
“... insurance coverage rates, pregnancy and infant health outcomes, emergency room visits, and deaths related to conditions associated with exposure to environmental pollutants including respiratory ailments, quality of life, life expectancy, lead poisoning, and access to adequate healthy nutrition...”
And it requires state agencies that collect information on race, ethnicity, and language to collect that data in a uniform way.
The law has many other provisions, including measures to study and make improvements in:
- Mental health
- COVID response
- Maternal health
- Gun violence
This comprehensive and detailed law is an important milestone in holding our state accountable to identify and reduce racial disparities.
To learn more: