The current COVID-19 crisis has exposed the health disparities that low income and people of color, especially children, face in their everyday lives. Lead poisoning and air pollution are among the factors that place these communities at particular risk.

At the root of these public health threats is systemic racism.

A special program probed these issues in-depth, convening experts in the field of public health and public policy to bring new insights and offer real solutions to these too often ignored problems. Who is responding to this crisis and what do we need to do as a community to enact the kind of changes that will save our most vulnerable populations?

The Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation co-sponsored the event with the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit Public Television and Wayne State University with leaders in the public health community engaging in a live-streamed event titled, “Racism: The Real Public Health Crisis.”

The featured speaker was Dr. Michelle Williams, dean of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who addressed these health disparities and their impact on public health, with special emphasis on exposure to air pollution and lead.

Detroit-based advocates Jamesa Johnson Greer, a policy specialist from the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition/Citizens Clean Air Council, and Dr. Lyke Thompson, director of the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University, provided insights on how Detroiters are working to address these issues and what is needed to protect public health.