The Health Department is closed Monday, May 27, for Memorial Day.
Close this search box.
Close this search box.
  • Racism Hurts Everyone (Racial Equity)

    Addressing this public health crisis in Pierce County

    Justice, Healing and Action

    Everyone should have a fair opportunity to achieve good health. Not everyone in Pierce County has that opportunity. Black, Indigenous and People of Color have a lower life expectancy. They experience poorer birth outcomes and higher rates of diabetes and other diseases.

    Good health won’t be a reality for all residents unless we address racism as a root cause of poor physical and mental health for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. We must commit to justice, healing and action.

    Action begins with a commitment to the uncomfortable but necessary work to dismantle racism.

    What is race?

    Race is a modern concept that divides people based on their appearance or culture. It has no basis in science. Racial groups have more similarities than differences. The rules of society assign racial identity. Race isn’t real, but racism is.

    What is racism?

    Racism structures opportunity and assigns value based on how a person looks. The result: conditions that unfairly advantage some and unfairly disadvantage others.

    ­American Public Health Association

    Racism occurs at the individual, institutional and structural level. Individual racism is unjust treatment of a person because of how they look. Institutional racism happens through policies or procedures that help some people and hinder others. Structural racism is institutional racism that occurs across multiple institutions.

    Many laws and business policies have racist roots. Racist laws and policies control and limit the rights of Black, Indigenous and People of Color and favor White people. Past racist policies affect access to wealth and education today.

    What is racial equity and justice?

    All people—no matter their skin color or cultural heritage—deserve fair opportunities for jobs, housing, education and health. Racial equity means everyone can reach their full potential. Our racial equity response begins with the Black/African American community because of recent trends which affect our community. We seek racial justice by creating policies, practices and actions to achieve racial equity for all.

    Racism is a public health crisis.

    The Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health took bold action to address the legacy of racism. Board members unanimously passed a resolution that declares racism a public health crisis. We organized a team to support countywide efforts to tackle racism and unfairness where we live, learn, work, worship, and play.

    Team members are developing strategies to address racism within the Health Department. We strive to be an anti-racist organization—actively working to promote policies that dismantle racism—and to:

    • Elevate the influence of racism on factors that produce health like education, housing, income, and access to healthcare.
    • Work on long-term policy, systems, and environmental change.
    • Create the conditions we all need to have the best health possible.

    In partnership with Potential Unleashed, we offered staff 5-part virtual racial equity and justice trainings. Staff will learn to:

    • Define diversity, equity and inclusion.
    • Examine and learn key concepts and frameworks.
    • Develop a shared language around race identity and issues.
    • Understand historical context, social constructs and systems.
    • Recognize how racism shows up in our work, policies and interpersonal relationships.
    • Explore ways to use social positions to interrupt racial oppression
    • Explore self-identity and the different levels of bias and micro-aggression.

    What can you do?

    We cannot do this work alone. We look to partner across sectors and with all our racial, ethnic, and other communities to honor their voices and harness their strength.

    Racism affects health. Good health in a person or community is a policy decision. We already work with partner agencies to develop a Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach to improve health outcomes. HiAP is a systematic approach that incorporates the health effects of social, economic, and environmental factors into decision-making across sectors and policy areas.

    Are you an agency or municipal leader who’s interested in HiAP? Email to learn more.

    Together we can address racism and all obstacles to good health.


    Contact us at

    Learn more about race and racism

    Other resources