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Turn anger over George Floyd’s killing into action to improve our communities

Our communities in Pierce County and nationwide are outraged, angry, and frustrated over George Floyd’s death. I join others in condemning his killing and in calling for justice, healing, and concrete action to correct the underlying institutions, systems, and conditions that perpetuate violence and inequities.

In public health, we know social, economic, and environmental factors are the major drivers of our health. Racism is interwoven with these factors and is especially potent for our Black communities who suffer the legacy of slavery and centuries of systematic discrimination. Members of our racial and ethnic communities and other marginalized communities suffer significant health disparities: they are sicker, suffer more violence, and die younger. The health inequities mean they will never reach their full health potential.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought disparities in our racial and ethnic communities to the forefront. Black, along with Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, Latinx, and American Indian/Alaskan Native communities in Pierce County are getting sick at significantly higher rates.

In my eleven years leading the Health Department, we have grown impatient of awareness and implemented action strategies to achieve health equity. The death of George Floyd and others are reminders that we are not working fast enough.

The Health Department is renewing its commitment to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. Even as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to:

  • Work with governments, businesses, and community organizations on policies that promote health and dismantle the institutions and systems that perpetuate racism, violence, poverty, and injustice.
  • Collaborate with people suffering the greatest health inequities to identify priorities and improve health in their communities. When community members are in control of health where they live, learn, work, worship, and play, we are more likely to succeed.

I understand the pain and anger recent events have caused. The killing of George Floyd is tragic as was the killing of so many others under similar circumstances. The Health Department will stand with our communities in pushing for justice, healing, and concrete action. We will take that passion and direct it toward the work we do every day so our communities can achieve their best physical, mental, and social wellbeing. Together, we can make all our communities healthier and safer for everyone in Pierce County.