As many of you are aware the Board of Selectmen recently approved a resolution on racism and public health. The resolution is available with the minutes of the last meeting. My support of this resolution is based on several factors. In addition, I have received a small number of inquiries about what this means. I believe the resolution is largely self-explanatory but I will expound on my thoughts.
There is no question that there are very large racial disparities in the health of our population whether nationally or locally. (See the report on health disparities in Connecticut below). While I am certain this is true from my experience as a physician in this community for 29 years, overseeing the orthopedic clinic at Bridgeport hospital and having a Fairfield private practice, my thoughts are grounded in data which I will provide. As the briefest of snapshots, the recent pandemic has made this point abundantly clear. In Connecticut, the chances of obtaining Covid-19 for people of color is roughly three times that of white people. (This info is updated daily at ct.gov/coronavirus.) Bridgeport has the largest concentration of the virus in the state.
One question which I hear repeatedly and always find disturbing is how does this affect Easton, and if not, why should I care? It is true that the minority population of Easton is too small to measure the effects of racial differences on public health. However, we are 50 miles from America’s second-largest city and are very much tied to its economics, and social fabric through commuting, social and family ties. We are five miles from Bridgeport and greatly affected by that proximity. More importantly, I think we all agree that we enjoy great benefits by being citizens of these United States. I believe that we also own America’s problems and — even when the effects of those problems may not seem to affect us so directly at a particular moment in time — it is short-sighted to believe they never will, or not to prepare for when they might.
The selectmen by this resolution agree to begin giving consideration to how our decisions may affect public health, particularly of minorities. For those looking for a formula for how we will do this, none exists, but we have never looked at issues through this lens before. The facts of the problems are clear. We have shown our support for doing what we can as a town to help where we can. As a potential example, malnutrition is a huge part of the inequity in health care, and we are a farm community. Perhaps we will have an opportunity to help in providing better quality foods for some of our neighbors. Also locally, the town of Westport, our partner for now in the health district, has been moving in the same direction, looking at how they can better serve minorities in their town and in the region with regard to many issues, including public health. There may well be opportunities to coordinate through the health district regarding policies and procedures. Their director has reviewed the resolution.
The facts of racial inequities, in this case specific to public health, may be unsettling to some. Those who have questioned the resolution seem to fear that acknowledging this reality will adversely affect them in regard to their individual lives. I have been questioned about how school curricula and specific town departments will be evaluated. How to better understand this issue and how to improve the overall health of racial minorities will not be solved in Easton and not today. That is not a reason to avoid thinking about this problem and, where possible, trying to improve public health overall.
As a longtime physician and scientist, I will continue to be guided by facts and science in my decisions as your first selectman. I will hold myself to being responsible for the health of all of Easton, and in regard to this resolution do whatever I can to improve the health of those of color in our communities of Easton, Connecticut and America.Health-disparities-in-Connecticut-1