Breaking down Fayetteville’s resolution declaring racism a public health crisis

KNWA

"It is something that has been going on unfortunately for decades and centuries, that we're still fighting today." — Dr. Gary Berner

In this May 2020 photo provided by Eli Lilly, a researcher tests possible COVID-19 antibodies in a laboratory in Indianapolis. Antibodies are proteins the body makes when an infection occurs; they attach to a virus and help it be eliminated. (David Morrison/Eli Lilly via AP)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — In Fayetteville, racism was recently declared as a public health crisis, but what exactly does that mean?

It’s our way of recognizing that public policy has an impact on people in our community and sometimes that impact is not equal.

KYLE SMITH, COUNCIL MEMBER, CITY OF FAYETTEVILLE

Minority groups say Fayetteville declaring racism as a public health crisis is monumental, and it’ll play a key roll in bringing light to major racial disparities for years to come.

Fayetteville made history by becoming the first city in the South to declare this resolution of racism as a public health crisis.

MIREYA REITH, FOUNDING EXEC. DIRECTOR, ARKANSAS UNITED

Mireya Reith is the founding executive director for Arkansas United.

“As a native of Fayetteville who is proud to be a Mexican-American, we’re very much looking forward to accompanying the African American Advisory Council and the City of Fayetteville in figuring out how we put this into action,” she said.

Arkansas United is one of the organizations that endorsed the resolution, proposed by Mayor Lioneld Jordan’s African American Advisory Council.

Reith said racism within the city has led to very obvious health disparities.

“Families have been turned away because of assumptions that they speak Spanish so that must mean that they don’t have status in this country,” she said. “We know that for a much longer period, a lot of our African-American community has faced similar challenges of not getting taken seriously.”

There are racist aspects of our society that go into our political realm and our healthcare realm and education realm.

DR. GARY BERNER, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, COMMUNITY CLINIC

Community Clinic Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Berner has seen this first hand.

“We’ve got the pandemic specifically that has really thrown a major spotlight on how race is a major impact in terms of health care and health care disparities,” Dr. Berner said. “We’ve got to fix some of those small pieces to then be able to improve our diabetes rates and our age of death rates.”

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Fayetteville City Council Member Kyle Smith said these changes won’t happen overnight.

I don’t look at this as one thing we will look back on one day and say, ‘okay it’s done now’.

KYLE SMITH, COUNCIL MEMBER, CITY OF FAYETTEVILLE

Smith said this declaration is just the start of a long-term commitment to better serve minority populations within the city.

“We are going to look at everything through an equity lens and right some wrongs and just generally take that approach on our whole system,” he said. “There are no easy answers and it’s always going to be a conversation and a process.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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