Police brutality is a public health crisis Vox, June 1 2020, Brian Resnick
Why Black Lives Should Matter For Everyone
“America’s crises are boiling over, one into another. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, masses of people are taking to the streets to protest police brutality after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota and other victims of racial violence.
These two stories are linked. They are both public health stories. The link is systemic racism.
“The same broad-sweeping structural racism that enables police brutality against black Americans is also responsible for higher mortality among black Americans with Covid-19,” Maimuna Majumder, a Harvard epidemiologist working on the Covid-19 response, tells Vox.
“One in every 1,000 black men and boys can expect to be killed by police in this country,” she says. “To me, this clearly illustrates why police brutality is a public health problem; anything that causes mortality at such a scale is a public health problem.” ”
Read the full article here
Through the WI lens
It’s not customary to characterise racism as a health problem, but when police brutality is proven to have caused so many premature deaths in a country like the USA, viewing it through the lens of public health offers a fresh perspective on America’s oldest problem. This article draws a link between the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on black and ethnic communities (the same has also been found in the BAME communities of the UK) and the violent policing that takes such a high toll of black lives and led to the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. The thread that connects the two, it argues, is ‘structural racism’ – an in-built disadvantage and excessive burden that permeates throughout society. That racism has implications for public health because it creates mistrust in public institutions and results in people not seeking help when they need it, or failing to follow official advice, which has contributed to the disproportionate toll of Covid-19 victims.
But in a broader picture, racism affects the mental health and happiness of everyone. A society where people are not treated equally breeds mistrust and creates tensions between different groups. And it damages our own sense of wellbeing. As the American theologian E. Stanley Jones put it: “We think we are harming others in holding these spites and hates, but the deeper harm is to ourselves.”
What this article goes on to explain is how positive thinking – described here as ‘thriving’ – can counter the effects that come from the negativity outlined above, from reduced memory to diminished performance. Based on studying people in a series of organisations in different industries, one of the authors has found that people who attain this state are more resilient, experience less burnout, and are more confident in their ability to take control of a situation
“Behind the jargon what this is really about is how we address the challenge of biodiversity under threat, move away from fossil materials like plastic and concrete, and use nature in a sustainable way, all of which could be summed up by “living in harmony with nature”.”
“In the new ‘consensual contract’ between employer and worker, what’s required is a commitment from the employer to safeguard the wellbeing of their people, and a commitment in return from employees to take personal responsibility for their performance of their job.”
“Could loneliness not only be damaging our mental and physical health but also be making the world a more aggressive, angry place? And if so, what are the implications for a cohesive society and democracy?”
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”