One of the most difficult barriers to improving community health is the discrimination and social harm caused by racism. Too many Americans are exposed to racism on a daily basis and it has led to enormous health and financial inequities in this country.
The OHSU Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness works to improve community health across Oregon, the U.S. and beyond. Our work is grounded in science that clearly shows how exposure to frequent and prolonged stressors, like racism, that occur during adolescence, pregnancy and in the first years of life lead to physical changes that manifest as compromised emotional and physical health in adulthood. These stressors underlie the well-documented declining health of people in the U.S., and especially in communities of color.
The Moore Institute unequivocally denounces all forms of racism and discrimination. Racism is causing major harm to populations of color, including Black, Latino/Latinx, Native American and Alaska Native communities. From subtle acts of prejudice to egregious acts of discrimination, racism is built into the very systems that are meant to keep us safe and healthy: health care, policing, education, farming, politics and more.
We know that more Black and Native American women are dying during labor and delivery than women in other racial and ethnic groups. The food insecurity rate for Black and Latino/Latinx households is twice the rate for non-Hispanic white households, and a disproportionate number of Black Americans are incarcerated and dying from police violence.
Downstream health outcomes such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease are more prevalent in Black, Latino/Latinx, Native American and Alaska Native communities. The current COVID-19 pandemic is hitting communities of color harder than white communities.
It has been too easy to ignore these statistics as someone else’s problem, but recent turmoil in our cities shows us that these issues affect us all. It is past time for individuals and organizations to speak out against all forms of racism and discrimination. The Moore Institute seeks to join forces with communities to eradicate the poisonous roots of racial injustice.
We follow the lead of our OHSU president, Danny Jacobs, M.D., M.P.H., in calling for an inward look at our attitudes about race in order to make substantial and permanent improvements in ourselves and our institution. The worst outcome of the current state of unrest would be to allow discussions of race and police action to return to “normal” without systemic improvement.