Colorado is declaring racism a public health crisis, after the employees inside the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment put pressure on its top health official to address the issue.
Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the executive director of the department, told The Denver Post that the stance would become formal policy within the department.
The declaration aligns Colorado with the American Public Health Association (APHA), which first declared systemic racism in the U.S. a public health crisis back at the beginning of June — shortly after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, a Black man.
In making the declaration, Hunsaker Ryan said that she has a couple of goals: Increase diversity among the department’s workforce and make it easier for local organizations that serve people of color to partner with the state. Currently, the department is nearly 78 percent white, the Post says.
Additionally, the APHA has declared police violence as a public health crisis.
“We also condemn police violence against community residents who have expressed frustration and despair over day-to-day racism,” it said in its June statement. “This racism, while far too commonplace in our health care system, in housing, in employment and beyond, has rocked this nation and is tantamount to a public health crisis.”
Municipalities in 19 states, including California, Pennsylvania and Texas, have also declared racism a public health crisis.
Colorado joins Wisconsin as states that have formally made declarations about systemic racism. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) made the declaration on June 4, the same day as the APHA.