From Words to Action: Can Local Policies and Declarations Address Racism as a Public Health Issue?

Principal Investigators
Berkeley Media Studies Group
Funded on

With the global pandemic and the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, among others, the summer of 2020 saw an explosion of media and public attention to health inequities and racial justice. As community organizers and public health researchers exposed the disproportionate toll of COVID-19 on essential workers, many of whom are Black, Indigenous, or other people of color, and corporate statements on the Black Lives Matter movement, a number of communities formally declared racism a public health issue.  

This study will examine how formal declarations of racism as a public health issue can be used to create, maintain, or strengthen local policies and systems intended to dismantle structural racism and invest in community well-being, asking: 

  1. Of a sample of in-depth case studies, which public declarations that racism is a public health issue resulted in concrete government action intended to dismantle structural racism and invest in community health and well-being?  

  1. How did the declarations come about? How were community partners initiating or engaging in the process? 

  1. How was the debate represented in news coverage? 

In addition to providing insights into the processes through which declarations were developed, shared, and communicated, this research will identify and elaborate on the components of comprehensive policies that do - or do not - directly address racism, helping those in the public health to bolster mechanisms for addressing structural racism.