Boston declares racism a public health crisis

brazzo/iStockBy AARON KATERSKY and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(BOSTON) -- Boston's mayor declared racism an emergency and a public health crisis in an executive order on Friday.

Mayor Marty Walsh vowed to "increase equity in public safety and public health" and promised that city officials will start "a conversation that can produce lasting, systemic change to eliminate all the ways that racism and inequality harm our residents."

Boston isn't alone. Last month, commissioners in Franklin County, Ohio, passed a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis.

"Racism is a driving force that shapes access to the social determinants of health and is a barrier to health equity for all Bostonians," Marty Martinez, Boston's Chief of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. "This declaration will bring this work into greater focus with real, intentional efforts to get to the root causes and see measurable solutions."

Walsh said he's responding to former President Barack Obama's request that mayors pursue police reforms. Walsh said he has signed the "Mayor's Pledge" issued by the Obama Foundation's My Brother's Keeper Alliance.

Beyond reviewing and reforming police use of force policies, Walsh said he's "recommending rigorous implicit bias training" and wants to improve the body camera program.

Walsh also said he's reallocating police overtime funding to public safety in community health. The money will go to housing security, ending youth homelessness and to emergency clinicians and mental health supports provided by the police when they respond to people in crisis.

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