City Commission Names Racism a Public Health Crisis: What Does Mentoring Have to Do With It?

City Commission Names Racism a Public Health Crisis: What Does Mentoring Have to Do With It?

November 2021 | By Cassandra Kiger

On 9/28, the Grand Rapids City Commission and Mayor Bliss approved the resolution to name Racism as a Public Health Crisis in the City of Grand Rapids. Some may be asking, ‘Why should I care about this?’, and especially, ‘Why does Affinity Mentoring care about this?’. Great question; we are actually one small part of reducing the risk that racism can have on the health of students and families in our community!
If you have not yet seen it you can read the full resolution here. Or, here are a few key highlights that pertain to our work at Affinity:

  • “While a resolution is not the solution itself, it can serve as public acknowledgment of racism as a core problem impacting health and support citywide efforts to address this problem.”
  • This was widely supported throughout the city, including from health organizations like Spectrum Health
  • In the resolution it declares that “Black, Indigenous and people of color face economic injustice, social deprivation and health inequities as a result of systemic racism”
  • “[E]ducational attainment” is specifically named as a key health area that is impacted by systemic racism, supported by statistics such as:
    • In Grand Rapids, 22% of Black and 43% of Latino residents 25 or older have less than high school education attainment, as compared to 6% of white residents. (Policy Link Equity Profile of Grand Rapids, 2017)
    • Latinos are 16% of the population in Grand Rapids but account for 43% of residents aged 25 and up that don’t have a high school diploma. (Policy Link Equity Profile of Grand Rapids, 2017)
    • In Grand Rapids, 13% of Latino and 13% of Black residents 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree or higher, as compared to 44% of white residents (Policy Link Equity Profile of Grand Rapids, 2017); and
    • Across all Kent County schools, 19.4% of Black and 21.2% of Latino middle school students reported not going to school because they did not feel safe at school or on their way to or from school compared to 8.7% of white middle school students (Kent County Community Health Needs Assessment, 2020)

In passing the resolution, the City Commission declared: “The City acknowledges racism as a public health crisis and supports policies and opportunities to dismantle structural racism and achieve health and social equity”. Most importantly, they “urge local organizations, businesses, units of government and individuals to use their influence to ‘dismantle racism and apply a public health framework to those efforts.'”

We recently shared with you a blog highlighting the BCBS Foundation of Michigan Research Grant that we were awarded. We took the time to show how, based on Social Determinants of Health like Education and Social & Community Relationships, mentoring can have both short and long term impacts on health. As challenged and directed by our City Commission and the GR Office of Equity and Engagement, and with the support of our Board of Directors, we are committed to doing our work in a way that promotes short and long term health of students and families in our community by addressing Social Determinants of Health, and reducing and dismantling racism in our work. 

We hope that you consider joining us as we learn, grow, and challenge ourselves to do this work well so that students and families can thrive. Stay tuned for more information about ways we can learn together in the coming months. 

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