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Racism in Public Health

More than 1,200 US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employees urge the agency to designate racism a public health crisis and examine its own discriminatory acts in a letter to the agency director, NPR reports.

In the letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield, the authors point to the disproportionate effect the COVID-19 pandemic and recent police killings have had on Black communities. "At CDC, we have a powerful platform from which to create real change," the authors write. "By declaring racism a public health crisis, the agency has an unprecedented opportunity to leverage the power of science to confront this insidious threat that undermines the health and strength of our entire nation."

But, the letter-writers add that CDC must also address its own failings. For instance, they call on the agency to diversify its top leadership — Black employees only make up about 10 percent of CDC leadership, NPR notes — address its old boy/girl network culture that prevents the advancement of Black individuals, and counter bullying, hostility, and bias and racism directed at Black employees.

In a statement to NPR, CDC acknowledges receipt of the letter and says the agency is "committed to fostering a fair, equitable, and inclusive environment in which staff can openly share their concerns with agency leadership."