Dr. Richard Pan Introduces Legislation that will Require the State to Address Racism as a Public Health Crisis

December 7, 2020

SACRAMENTO – Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and state senator representing the Sacramento region introduced Senate Bill 17 today, which calls on California to declare racism as a public health crisis and to enact state policies to address systemic and institutional racism leading to poorer health outcomes and disparities in communities of color.

“Numerous studies have identified racism as a major root cause of health disparities including infant mortality, maternal mortality and overall mortality,” said Dr. Richard Pan. “The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored how communities of color are disproportionately affected because of systemic and institutional racism.”

A recent study found that racial disparities that put Black Americans at a health disadvantage to White Americans began at birth and continued up to age 65 years.[1] Studies show that chronic stress from individual and systemic acts of racism and discrimination trigger high blood pressure, heart disease, immunodeficiency, and result in accelerated aging. 

The introduction of SB 17 today affirms that addressing racial inequities is among the first health priorities of the California legislature this new session. Dr. Pan will be engaging stakeholders to determine how the state can apply an equity lens and approach to laws and regulations with an antiracist, equity-driven focus that interrogates whether a policy plays a role in upholding or dismantling racist systems.

The American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association have called out racism as an urgent threat to public health, and have recently adopted polices in response.  In addition, government bodies throughout the nation, including in California, have declared racism a public health crisis or emergency. To date, sixteen cities and seven counties in California, including Sacramento and Yolo counties in Dr. Pan’s district, have taken that important first step. 

“Institutional and systemic racism permeates our society in insidious ways,” said Dr. Pan. “The disparities in health outcomes and lifespan we observe are the result of systems and policies that disadvantage people because of their race and ethnicity. Racism limits our ability to make California a healthy state making racism a public health crisis.”


[1]  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5844417/ - bib1