YMCA Supports Proclaiming Racism as Public Health Crisis

blood pressure

July 22, 2020

Dear Buncombe County Board of Commissioners:

The YMCA stands in solidarity with the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services in the belief that racism is a public health crisis. Our community must improve health outcomes to advance racial equity and justice.

On behalf of the YMCA of Western North Carolina Board of Directors and staff, I urge you to name racism as a public health crisis in Buncombe County. The YMCA strongly supports the Buncombe County Health and Human Services Board’s June 26 proclamation to this effect, and pledges to work with HHS and other community partners to improve health outcomes by advancing racial equity and justice.

The Y is honored to join this unified advocacy effort to end racial injustice in all systems. It is imperative that our community leaders take meaningful action now to address the experiences of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). COVID-19 has amplified existing health inequities, exacerbating the unjust and avoidable disparities in health conditions, opportunities and outcomes between community members and groups because of the cumulative stressors, trauma, and unequal treatment caused by racism.

Buncombe County has a deeply rooted history of institutional and systemic racism that has contributed to persistent and often increasing racial inequities in health outcomes and connected social determinants. The YMCA of Western North Carolina has been dedicated to the health of this region for more than 130 years, most recently through nutritious feeding programs, childcare, and the North Carolina Minority Diabetes Prevention Program. We see racial health inequities in our work each day, and recognize that we have often fallen short in our mission to serve all. However, we are committed to learning and taking meaningful action to improve health outcomes and strengthen relationships with BIPOC.

I invite anyone who feels disenfranchised by the Y, or who wants to share their honest input on how the Y can be part of the solution to ensure equity, access, and inclusion for all, to contact me directly.

There is significant work happening in our community to undo racism and discrimination. The YMCA of Western North Carolina recognizes the need to urgently and collaboratively address systemic racism to advance the health and well-being of our entire community. As a nonprofit community benefit organization dedicated to youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility, the YMCA cannot and will not remain silent in the face of this injustice.

We now ask that you, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, declare that racism is a public health crisis in our County. We encourage you to work with the County Manager and staff on recognizing and rectifying historical injustices, identifying and changing policies that uphold the impact of structural racism, and allocating funding that builds on community assets and begins to repair the damage that racism causes in our community. Please join us in recognizing this incredible crisis in order to ensure sustained focus on dismantling racism and building a more equitable and just society for all.

In solidarity,

Paul Vest
President and CEO