Salt Lake City

Mayor Mendenhall, Salt Lake City Council Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis

July 20, 2021

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the Salt Lake City Council adopted a joint resolution declaring racism a public health crisis. The resolution, which was adopted at the Council’s formal meeting on Tuesday, outlines the impacts of structural and interpersonal racism, which are proven to have detrimental impacts on the mental and physical health of communities of color.

A resolution to declare racism a public health crisis was initially proposed to the City by a group of community leaders who are in or working toward health-related careers, and it was reviewed and approved by both the City’s Human Rights Coalition and the Commission on Racial Equity in Policing.

“This is an important declaration for us to make as a City. Not only are we publicly acknowledging the existence of a grave inequity that many in our community have known and experienced for so long, we are also committing ourselves to the creation of policies and ordinances that are anti-racist,” Mayor Mendenhall said. 

“There is no doubt of the crisis. Our society is burdened with bigotry and all the hatred that comes with it,” said Council Chair Amy Fowler. “Indeed, it is a moral imperative to combat racism, discrimination, and inequities in all their forms.” 

Racism directly impacts access to numerous everyday resources, including education, housing, employment, and healthcare. The cascading effects are known to result in negative outcomes for physical and mental health.

Over the course of the pandemic, the impacts of racism on public health and the heavier burden on the City’s communities of color have been well documented. 

At the height of the pandemic, odds of infection were three times more likely in Glendale and two times more likely in Rose Park, where there are high percentages of Latino and nonwhite residents. Additionally, Latino communities account for 14.2% of Utah’s population, but 40% of the state’s COVID-19 cases, and American Indian and Alaskan Native communities in Utah had a case fatality rate that is roughly three times higher than the state average.

The resolution commits that as the City continues its work going forward, it will continue to be critical about the policies and ordinances created to ensure they do not add to the compounding of inequities, and that they work to undo the damage done over many years.

For a copy of the resolution click here.


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