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President Drake supports resolution declaring racism a public health crisis

Columbus City Council identifies racism as a broad societal problem

Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake spoke out Monday in favor of a Columbus City Council resolution that would declare racism a public health crisis.

The council meeting came in the wake of five days of protests against police brutality and institutional racism. Councilmember Priscilla Tyson, with unanimity from members of council, introduced a resolution that declares racism a public health crisis and seeks to improve the quality of life and health of minority residents.

Drake joined the virtual meeting to offer his support for the resolution. He also delivered a letter to city council offering the support of the university to aid the effort. Prior to reading the university’s letter of support for the resolution, Drake spoke of his own experience with racism, including the health disparities he witnessed and worked to resolve as an African American physician in California.

“I write to express my unqualified support for the City Council’s resolution declaring racism a public health crisis,” Drake wrote. “Racism is indeed a public health crisis. I am pleased and encouraged that both the Columbus City Council and the Franklin County commissioners are identifying this as a broad societal problem.”

Drake also addressed the issue through his social media account and issued his support for an independent Citizens Review Board with student representation:

Tyson noted African Americans are disproportionately impacted by inequities in housing, crime, incarceration, education, employment, health care and public safety. The resolution calls for city leaders to commit their full attention to improving the quality of life and health of minority residents. The effort includes a systematic, data-driven focus on poverty, economic mobility and other factors that impact the social determinants of health. “The emotional, financial and health toll has generational implications,” Tyson continued. “The burden of being black in America is not only exploding in our bodies, it’s spilling into the streets. If we don’t begin treating this as a health crisis, our communities will never heal.”

In addition to his endorsement of the resolution, Drake said the university community is prepared to help combat this health crisis. He said the university is a committed community of scholars, scientists, researchers and health care providers ready and eager to work with council and other policymakers to help create a “world in which we all can live healthier, more productive and more fulfilling lives.”

The resolution comes a week after the death of 46-year-old George Floyd, who died in Minnesota while in police custody. An officer has been criminally charged in the death. The circumstances of Floyd’s death have sparked protests across the nation.

Drake addressed the university community last week and over the weekend after Floyd’s death. He said he was heartsick at seeing the death of an unarmed man in police custody – another example of racism that has crippled the nation.

“We must seriously and concretely redouble our efforts to end abuse, discrimination, bigotry and hatred.”

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