Health Care

Chicago Mayor Declares Racism a Public-Health Crisis

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a science initiative event at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Ill., July 23, 2020. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters)

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot declared racism a public-health emergency on Thursday, citing racism as a leading factor in the 9.2-year life-expectancy gap between black and non-black Chicagoans. 

“At almost every single point in our city’s history, racism has taken a devastating toll on the health and well-being of our residents of color — especially those who are Black,” Lightfoot said in a written statement. “Without formally acknowledging this detrimental impact, we will never be able to move forward as a city and fully provide our communities with the resources they need to live happy and healthy lives.”

The Democratic mayor said she is “doubling down” on efforts alongside city officials and community leaders to address racism in the city.

She said the city will enact a “will to act” initiative that will aim to address the lasting impacts of historical policies including Jim Crow restrictions, redlining, and “other forms of financial and housing segregation and discrimination.”

Meanwhile, Chicago’s health department said it will apportion nearly $10 million of COVID-relief funding from the CDC to create six Healthy Chicago Equity Zones that will cover the entire city.

The announcement comes after the city health department released data earlier this week that showed non-black Chicagoans live an average of 71.4 years while non-black residents live an average of 80.6 years.

Chronic diseases, homicide, infant mortality, opioid overdose, and health concerns including HIV, flu, and other infections have all contributed to the life-expectancy gap. 

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