On behalf of the Louisiana Public Health Association (LPHA) we condemn the acts of racism, police brutality, and injustice. In the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic and its disparities cast upon minorities; the world has also witnessed racism at work in the United States through the senseless murders of Ahmaud Arbery (February 23), Breonna Taylor (March 13), George Floyd (May 25). Recent peaceful protests have covered the globe in response to these current events, which are all too common in America. Today thousands of workers across dozens of cities nationwide participate in a national ‘Strike for Black Lives’ to fight racism and low wages. It’s time for a change.
In public health, we (professionals, students, advocates, and health providers) are acutely aware of the significant and longstanding disparities in health outcomes among African Americans, American Indians and Latinx populations in Louisiana and elsewhere. According to state health officials, Louisiana’s most vulnerable populations to disparities, are the poor, individuals with disabilities, African Americans, tribal communities, drug users and other minority groups. These disparities are a symbol of deep systemic inequities that exist to prevent some communities from thriving and achieving optimal health. To compound these matters, racially discriminatory policing is of great concern in Louisiana. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center report (2018), black adults in Louisiana were nearly 3 times as likely as white people to be arrested for marijuana possession and 4.3 times as likely to be serving a felony prison sentence. *Practices such as racial profiling are both pervasive and hard to prove, yet undoubtedly contribute to Louisiana’s high incarceration rate, one of the highest in the nation. **In addition, social determinants of health (e.g. poverty, income, and housing) and systemic issues such as structural racism, discrimination, and conscious and unconscious racism that are deeply engrained in all of our systems and serve to benefit some populations while having an adverse impact on others, continue to blur the lines of health equity. We see these inequities clearly through disparities in incarceration rates and health outcomes, most recently through the higher rates of illness and death due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we grieve with the nation in the unnecessary and violent loss of life of Ahmaud Arbury (February 23), Breonna Taylor (March 13), George Floyd (May 25), it is time to take a stand. It is time to challenge racism in all of its forms through uprooting policies and practices in institutions that are racist, including the end racism in policing and criminal justice systems through confronting bias. We must also challenge disparities in health, which end blaming underserved populations for being trapped in cycles of systemic poverty and racism. “Dying while black,” is happening too frequently in our streets, in our homes, in our communities, and in our nation. At this time, we implore our LPHA membership and all Louisianans to join with us to create more just and equitable systems and institutions, dismantle systemic inequities such as racism and discrimination, and promote equitable distribution of resources and services that can reach communities that are most vulnerable. Civic action, education, and advocacy have a successful history of bringing about change in our country and contribute to productive dialogue. These tools can promote health equity for all Louisianans. This is our mission. The time for change is Now.
Louisiana Public Health Association
*Racial Profiling in Louisiana: Unconstitutional and Counterproductive – Southern Poverty Law Center retrieved July 20, 2020.
**Louisiana State Profile- Prison Policy Initiative- retrieved July 20, 2020.
Copyright © 2021 Louisiana Public Health Association - All Rights Reserved. The Louisiana Public Health Association (LPHA) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1948 and is an affiliate member of the American Public Health Association. The mission of LPHA is to promote health in the State of Louisiana. To find out more about LPHA, our mission and our work, please visit https://lpha.org/.