Racism is a Public Health Crisis: Community Engagement

“A democracy cannot thrive where power remains unchecked and justice is reserved for a select few. Ignoring these cries and failing to respond to this movement is simply not an option — for peace cannot exist where justice is not served.”

– American Civil Rights Icon, Congressman John C. Lewis

Inequity and injustice impact us all. Since declaring Racism is a Public Health Crisis (RPHC), King County Government and Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) have committed to developing stronger and better resourced partnerships with community organizations and leaders to disrupt and dismantle racism and protect the health and well-being of our all our residents, regardless of race or location.

The county is applying a racially equitable response that intentionally centers the voices, lived experiences, and expressed needs of communities and residents impacted by racism to develop and implement sustainable solutions that work. Institutional policies and practices do not need to be explicitly racist to have racist impacts. Racism harms every person in our society and is the root cause of poverty and economic inequality. 

Lack of meaningful community input leads to unequal outcomes for residents disproportionately impacted by systemic racism. Collaboration and co-creation, from development to implementation, is necessary to achieve our collective success. We must work together, with community, to determine the changes needed across systems, effectively eliminate barriers to equity, and increase racially just outcomes.

Racism is a Public Health Crisis (RPHC) Community Engagement Team:

King County is prioritizing community input to build trust, ensure engagement is equitable, be community-driven, and begin the process of healing trauma caused by structural racism. Intentional and meaningful community engagement, leading to working together, is key to our success.

The county’s RPHC Community Engagement Team is focused on breaking down existing silos that lead to community fatigue and lack of equitable engagement. The goal is to work with and alongside community partners as we move into being an anti-racist entity and region

As part of these efforts, in October 2020, KC awarded $200,000 to 23 eligible community-based organizations in this region for an outreach & engagement funding opportunity.

Community Feedback:

Each organization provided meaningful feedback with input directly from residents in communities most impacted by oppressive and inequitable systems and structural racism. The feedback from residents provides a sense of how the community views the anti-racist agenda and budget proposals. It also gives us an understanding of how we must move forward.

In the feedback gathered, there is a clear call for:

  • Increased Transparency
  • Systems & Government Accountability
  • Intentional Efforts to Rebuild Trust with Impacted Communities
  • Conversation, Collaboration, and Co-Creation with Community-Based Organizations & Impacted Residents

2021-2022 Budget & Policy Agenda:

King County government is not only declaring that Racism is a Public Health Crisis, it is embracing the clear call-to-action coming from community partners and residents in our most impacted communities.

The 2021-2022 Budget and Policy Agenda is a down payment on long-term investments that improve the County’s approach to working in partnership with impacted communities. Over multiple budget and policy cycles, these collaborative efforts will continue to divert resources away from systems and services that only affect outcomes, to community-based solutions and interventions that effectively eliminate the root causes.

This deliberate, long-term shift in resources and priorities will create systems, policies, and practices that are truly rooted in equity and racial justice for all residents living in King County.

Community Partnership Efforts:

The King County Executive Office and PHSKC will make the continued effort to develop and employ sustainable, community-led solutions.

Effectively addressing the root causes of systemic and structural racism requires working across systems, in partnership with the community—from the onset and through the duration of projects and initiatives.

Below are a few community centered efforts and engagement opportunities happening now.

King County Regional Community Safety & Well-being Plan (RCSWP):

PHSKC, Zero Youth Detention (ZYD) needs all hands-on-deck to effectively develop and implement a RCSWP that creates the kind of conditions needed for all young people across this region to live and be happy, healthy, hopeful, safe & thriving; regardless of race or location. ZYD is issuing a collective call-to-action; asking community members to participate in or co-facilitate a Work Group. ZYD recognizes that you, in community, are the experts best equipped to partner with KC as we work together to develop sustainable strategies and implement effective long-term solutions. Join us, sign-up today at: zeroyouthdetention.com/workgroups.

2021 Best Starts for Kids (BSK) Virtual Summit:

Calling all BSK champions and community partners! BSK is excited to announce the BSK 2nd Annual Virtual Summit 2021: We build. We Rise. We Soar., April 27 – April 30! The summit is reflecting on community built around a shared vision for babies, children, youth, and families in this region and provide an opportunity to reconnect with others in the community, share your experiences, and reflect on the challenges BSK partners and you, in the community, have risen to and overcome this year. Get ready for an incredible line up of inspirational speakers, peer-learning opportunities, special sessions designed by and for our young people, and much more. BSK is partnering with Whova.com to host the event virtually. There is still time for community members and partners to join. Click here to register today!

King County Safety, Security, and Fare Enforcement (SaFE) Reform Initiative:

Metro is committed to equity and understands that mobility—the ability to get where you need to go, when you need to safely, equitably, and sustainably—is a human right. Developed through interaction with impacted communities and residents in this region, SaFE’s goal is to co-create safer outcomes for the county’s mobility system by developing and amending safety, security, and fare enforcement policies and practices that impact communities and residents disproportionately facing challenges due to systemic racism. KC Metro is focused on strengthening relationships with community members to advance safety, equity, and inclusion that centers the voices of and needs of Black, Indigenous, and people of color. SaFE will help create a blueprint to make sure that all voices are heard as we make our mobility system safer and more equitable.

Additional Resources: