Op-Ed: Easton Resolution on Race in Public Health

On Agenda for April 26 Annual Town Meeting

One of the questions to be discussed at the annual town meeting on April 26 is the Easton Resolution on Racism and Public Health. As you may remember, this resolution was discussed by the Board of Selectman and endorsed unanimously on August 20, 2020. Over the next several months the point was made by a number of residents that the Board of Selectmen should not pass controversial resolutions without more town input.

Subsequently, on March 4, 2021, Selectman Kristi Sogofsky recommended putting the resolution to a Town Meeting. The board agreed and the resolution was rescinded pending discussion by the Town Meeting on April 26. Subsequently, the resolution  will be placed on the ballot at the town referendum May 4.

The resolution was originally proposed by a citizen, Elaine O’Keefe, who has a considerable public health background, and the wording was developed by a nonprofit corporation, Health Equity Solutions, based in Hartford. (O’Keefe provides more background on the resolution in an article published in the Easton Courier: The Connecticut Health Divide: How Racism Contributes.)

I believe that a substantial amount of data supports the fact that health outcomes in Connecticut are significantly inferior in persons of color. While that fact might also be attributable to socioeconomic status, level of education or even genetic factors, health outcomes for people of color are far worse than those of white people. If there was any question about this before the Covid-19 pandemic, the infection, hospitalization, and death rates were so disparate  in people of color that no doubt could remain.

As in seemingly all issues of racial inequity, there has been a chorus of “There is no racism in Easton. Why is this our  problem?” I think recent writings and discussions in town have revealed  a great deal of disagreement about how the people in Easton feel about racial inequity or lack thereof. This has affected our views on religion and education, as documented in writings in the Easton Courier. I believe this discussion is healthy, and if there is one thing we can all agree on, further discussion is absolutely warranted. The one caveat would be my urging that the conversations remain civil. 

My personal views are clear. The health disparities that exist in Connecticut are unacceptable, and I believe they need to be addressed and corrected. The resolution recommends actions in data collection and  public health initiatives throughout the state and as they may come to be needed in Easton. To the extent that these disparities in health are related to policies regarding public safety and education, those policies should be examined. It suggests that people of Easton and of Connecticut should work together to eliminate the disparities in health care that exist today. (For reference, the full resolution is posted at eastonct.gov). 

As citizens you are being asked to decide what position the town should take on the issue of whether you believe racism plays a role in the health of people of color and whether the town should support the actions listed in the resolution to address any inequities in health care in our town and state. 

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