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Tarrant County Public Health Plans to Hire Staff to Address Racism and Social Justice

Tarrant County is continuing its focus on health equity and social justice issues with two new job openings within its public health department.

As part of its vaccination efforts, the county’s health department has emphasized racial equity in its distribution plans. 

Now, it is looking to hire two positions within the public health department: an Equity and Social Justice Specialist and an Equity and Social Justice Supervisor.

The two positions, funded by a grant, will “facilitate community outreach and health education activities covering a broad scope of equity and social justice issues.”

The responsibilities for these positions are broader than the traditionally understood responsibilities of the public health department to provide “services aimed at promoting, achieving and maintaining a healthy standard of living to all Tarrant County residents.”

The new equity and social justice staff members will be asked to focus on issues around “equity, social injustice, racial justice, anti-racism, COVID-19 disparities, and other health disparities and inequities” in the county.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a movement grew to declare racism a public health crisis based on a reported disparate impact of the virus upon minority populations. 

The American Public Health Association asserts that “[r]acism is a longstanding systemic structure in this country that must be dismantled, through brutally honest conversations, policy changes and practices.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rachelle Walensky agreed. 

“Racism is not just the discrimination against one group based on the color of their skin or their race or ethnicity, but the structural barriers that impact racial and ethnic groups differently to influence where a person lives, where they work, where their children play, and where they worship and gather in community,” she contended. “These social determinants of health have life-long negative effects on the mental and physical health of individuals in communities of color.”

In Texas, the Dallas County Commissioners Court, Harris County Commissioners Court, San Antonio City Council, and Austin City Council have declared racism a public health crisis. Tarrant County has not yet officially done so. 

However, critics of this movement to declare racism a public health crisis say that statistics show that over time no disparate impact of COVID-19 on minorities was detected. 

The movement has its roots in critical race theory (CRT) which sees disparities as racism in social structures. 

Other skeptics argue that differentiations based on race in health considerations are not helpful. 

Connor Harris of the Manhattan Institute wrote that race is not “illusory or unrelated to genetics, but that delineations of racial categories are somewhat arbitrary and can differ between societies…[the] no-causes-but-racism doctrine may stymie valuable research and lead doctors to make bad decisions for minority patients.” 

“Unfortunately, critical race theory has already begun to corrupt not just research but routine medical practice,” Harris continued.

He also cites an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which determined that some of the disproportionate impacts on minority populations were related to a nasal gene expression found in black individuals. 

This week, the Tarrant County Commissioners Court also approved a contract to pay two speakers to address the Health Equity Alliance of Tarrant County regarding equity issues.

Jennifer Minor, a nurse clinical coordinator with Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, will address racial equity and justice work in community and hospital settings while psychologist Susan Wolfe will speak to the audience about incorporating principles of justice and equity with parents, families, and communities.

Tarrant County Public Health did not respond to requests for comment.

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