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Department of Health Services

For Immediate Release

Board of Supervisors unanimously approves resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis

SANTA ROSA, CA | March 15, 2024

By a unanimous 5-0 vote, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a resolution proposed by the Department of Health Services declaring racism to be a public health crisis.

“Our county has taken some critical steps towards addressing the health disparities that exist in our community, and we need to continue to focus on how we move the needle in a measurable way going forward,” said Supervisor David Rabbitt, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

Before a standing room-only audience, the supervisors listened to an impassioned presentation by DHS Director Tina Rivera, who spoke about the racial trauma and harm she has endured in her life.

“As a Black woman living and working in Sonoma County, it has been extremely difficult,” she said. “Systemic racism builds and takes its toll; it affects where we live, where we learn, where we worship and where we play. Silence will not serve us today.”

The 2021 update to the Portrait of Sonoma County highlighted the following ways in which racism impacts health and the social drivers of health in Sonoma County:

  • Black people live 10 fewer years than any other racial and ethnic group in the county;
  • Black and Latinx children are about 2.5 times more likely to live in poverty than their white counterparts;
  • Black people are 2.3 times more likely to be without health insurance and Latinx people are 4.1 times more likely to be without health insurance than white people; and
  • People of color are overrepresented in our county’s unhoused population, with 12 percent of unhoused persons being Native American/Alaska Native and 8 percent Black compared to the county population of which 2 percent is Native American/Alaska Native and 2 percent is Black.

The resolution Declaring Racism as a Public Health Crisis deepens and furthers the county’s understanding of the intersection between racism and health. It is intended to increase attention to health disparities, change the narrative from blaming the victims to changing the system, and uplift present and future strategies.

Please find the presentation and resolution here.

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Media Contact:
Sheri Cardo, DHS Communications Specialist
(707) 565-8619