Nevada Governor proclaims racism a public health crisis

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak signs a proclamation to formally name racism as a public health crisis on August 4, 2020 during a special session of the Nevada Legislature - photo: Office of Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak

At the same time lawmakers in the Nevada State Senate considered a concurrent resolution that urges “certain actions to address the public health crisis caused by systemic racism and greatly magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic in Nevada,” Governor Steve Sisolak issued a proclamation to formally name racism as a public health crisis. 

“Institutional and systemic racism has gone on far too long in this country and in this State. Based on research, we are taking a proactive approach in joining fellow leaders around the country to declare racism as a public health crisis, “ said Governor Sisolak.  “I am grateful to be joined by the Nevada Legislature in recognizing that racism manifests in measurable ways, including in public health. I look forward to working with Nevada leaders and the Office of Minority Health and Equity on this critical issue.”

In a press release, Governor Sisolak writes:

Experts and studies have shown that negative social determinants, with racism being at the forefront, have adversely impacted the health of minority communities. This has also been demonstrated in many forms including inequitable access to mental health services and a lack of educational and career opportunities, among many others.

The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the challenges caused by racial disparities within Nevada’s communities, especially in the form of virus and environmental exposure risks, and through all major stages of health care.

With this proclamation, Nevada joins other state and local governments that have passed or are considering similar declarations to raise awareness and with the goal of instigating long-term change across all sectors of government, including education, housing, and criminal justice. 

Importantly, this proclamation also enhances work already being done by the State’s Office of Minority Health and Equity, which was initially created by the Nevada Legislature in 2005 and expanded in 2017.

The Office of Minority Health and Equity engages communities statewide to promote health equity and combat health disparities through advocacy and education. For example, the Office is supporting important legislation signed by Governor Sisolak during the 2019 Session which addresses the results of systemic racism and requires cultural competency training for health care providers.