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Why We Must Declare Racism a Public Health Emergency - Template

We have created a letter template for those who wish to write to educate their representatives regarding the race disparities in healthcare. This template will work better at the state and local level so we advise seeking those representatives out. We are working on developing a tool that lets you know who your reps are (soon!) Please let us know in the comments if you chose to use this template!


[DATE]

[PERSONAL/BUSINESS ADDRESS]

The Honorable [SENATOR OR REPRESENTATIVE’S FIRST NAME, LAST NAME]

U.S. Senate OR House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Senator OR Representative [LAST NAME]


The United States is a country proudly founded on the ideals of safety and freedom — ideals that unfortunately are not realities for many populations, most notably the black population.

Healthcare bears some of the most striking statistics for systemic racism, yet these disparities take a quieter, less-noticed route and are often overshadowed by more blatant displays of racism. Though all forms of racism are equally wrong and disturbing, the disparities in the health of black and brown communities compared to white communities, even when adjusted for education and income level, are nothing short of horrific. Because of this disparity - we urge you to declare racism a public health emergency in [MY COUNTY]

At the national level, maternal mortality is 3 times higher for black mothers than it is for their white counterparts. While black and white individuals have almost equivalent rates of cancer diagnoses, black residents are still dying at a higher rate. Some initiatives have been taken to address these disparities - for example, in some counties, black women have a 90% screening rate for mammograms compared to 74% of all women residents(CDC, 2017). But overall, black women with breast cancer are still dying at higher rates, showing that many of these measures are not optimally addressing these disparities.

[HEALTH DISPARITY STATS SPECIFIC TO YOUR COUNTY].

[PERSONAL EXPERIENCE/WITNESS OF HEALTHCARE DISPARITIES/FAILURES]

I am appalled, sickened, and saddened by the recent brutal and absolutely unnecessary deaths of black citizens that have occurred in this country. In addition to systemic failures of healthcare, the trauma that communities of color face when those designated to protect and serve treat them as an assumed threat must also be addressed. When they participate in extrajudicial killings, we must ask: where are the constitutional rights of these Americans? These matters exceed justice and a life wrongly lost. These matters are social determinants of health and thus extend into the long term health of communities of color. The effects of stress and trauma on chronic disease and mental health are well established, thus, issues of social justice are undeniably also issues of public health.

These injustices have been ongoing for centuries - but I believe now is the time for action. I ask you to please make a public statement or respond to this email letting me know what you plan on doing for the individuals of color in this country. I urge you to consider pushing for the declaration of racism as a public health emergency in our district to ensure their safety and respect as United States citizens. It is our political leaders' duty to do everything within their power to promote and ensure the safeties and freedoms of all citizens, regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, education, or background. It is what the United States was founded on, not an issue of partisan ideas. By declaring racism a public health emergency, a move pushed for by national health organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Public Health Association, made by counties such as Franklin County, OH, and considered by Minneapolis, MN, you can join the force in protecting the health and safety of all your constituents.

Thank you for taking the time to read this email and considering my thoughts. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]

[YOUR INSTITUTION]


Statistics to include that are county-specific or state-specific could include (these are found in annual health reports - or can be left as general national statistics):

-General life expectancy

-Rates of heart disease or diabetes

-Vaccination rates for shingles/pneumonia

-Infant mortality.


General tips for writing your Congressperson (source: American Psychological Association):

  • Direct: state your subject clearly in the e-mail subject line and/or letter introduction

  • Factual: personalize the issue and support your stance with facts

  • Helpful: offer to provide additional information and provide your contact information

  • Informative: identify yourself, your views, and the bill number(s) of relevant legislation

  • Constructive: remain positive and offer recommendations without personal attacks or blame

  • Appreciative: thank the policymaker for their attention

  • Inquiring: ask for the policymaker’s viewpoint on the legislation

  • Specific: provide specific facts, data, examples, and write in the first-person

  • Concise: do not exceed one page or 500 words

More tips, sample e-mails, sample letters, and links to your state’s Congresspersons’ contact information can be found at this page created by the American Psychological Association.

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