Wyandotte County says it has a public health crisis – racism – and the county isn’t alone in recognizing racism as a public health crisis.
According to the American Public Health Association, to date, more than 250 communities across the United States have declared racism to be a public health crisis or emergency.
To address this health crisis, the Unified Government Public Health Dept. is launching an ambitious campaign to address racism in the county. The campaign, “Prioritizing Equity in Wyandotte County: Dismantling Systemic Racism,” is a long-term undertaking, especially since the state of racial inequity didn’t happen overnight.
It’s something the county recognizes has built up over years of inequities of investment in parts of the community, redlining and other practices.
Here are some statistics about Wyandotte County that provide examples of systemic racism and how it affects the health of a significant portion of the county’s minority community members:
•On average, the yearly household income for Black community members in WYCO is $33,996 per year while White community members have an average annual household income of $55,118.
• In WYCO, Black adults are more than twice as likely to be living in poverty or near poverty, compared to white adults.
• Low-income Black community members are dying 22 years sooner in some parts of WYCO than their wealthier White counterparts who live just miles away.
• Black community members die at higher rates of certain causes than White community members, including:
• Chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, stroke or diabetes
• Black Wyandotte County community members are more than twice as likely to have kidney disease and almost twice as likely to have diabetes as White community members.
• Higher infectious disease rates from viruses such as COVID-19
• Infant and maternal health complications
• In WYCO, Black infants are 2.4 times more likely to die before reaching their first birthday than White infants.
Housing Inequality Contributes to Poverty
Housing inequality has a tremendous impact on a family’s ability to accumulate (or not accumulate) wealth, to access healthcare and improve their socio-economic standing. For decades, practices such as redlining* hindered Black WYCO community members from being able to get mortgage loans and homes in desirable neighborhoods.
This inequitable homeownership leads to poverty, causing Black families to experience:
• Decreased access to mortgages and home renovation loans.
• Being relegated to undesirable neighborhoods with lower property values.
• Reduced investment in housing stock, education, the built environment and economic activity.
Poverty and Health Linked Together
In WYCO, Black adults are more than 2.5 times less likely to have health insurance, compared with White adults. This is because most health insurance in the U.S. is employer-based and Black working-age individuals are 3.6 times more likely to be unemployed than White working-age adults. Without health insurance, Black or BIPOC community members are less likely to seek and/or receive care. In many cases, the delay in seeking care leads to worsening illness and premature death.