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Washington State Department of Health Acknowledges Past Harms and Pledges Health Equity For All

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

PRESS RELEASE 18 September 2023

The Washington State Department of Health, in partnership with Momentum, a pioneering Black-led firm committed to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA), acknowledged past harms and health inequities faced by Black/African American communities at the Elevate Black Wellness initiative kickoff on June 29th.

This unprecedented step is a first for any Washington State agency. Elevate Black Wellness is a groundbreaking health initiative designed to transform health equity, heal harms inflicted by health systems, and empower the community for better health outcomes. The initiative is a bold response to centuries of health injustices suffered by the Black community.

During the event, Elizabeth Perez, the Department's Chief of Public Affairs, expressed a heartfelt recognition of the systemic racism that has contributed to profound health disparities in Washington State. "We have a history overshadowed by systemic racism that has resulted in significant health disparities," stated Perez. She explicitly acknowledged disturbing historical events, such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the case of Henrietta Lacks, and the enduring impact of these events on the Black community.

"These past atrocities have had profound implications, and we deeply regret the ongoing repercussions," she added. Perez also noted the social determinants of health that disproportionately affect Black/African American individuals. These include structural issues like lack of access to quality education, affordable housing, nutritious food, and fair employment opportunities. As part of its pledge to address these systemic issues, the Department of Health will collaborate with Momentum to champion the Elevate Black Wellness initiative.

This partnership aims to harness their collective power and expertise to confront health disparities, drive meaningful change, and promote health equity in Black communities in Washington State. "We cannot erase our history, but we can learn from it to create a more equitable future," Perez emphasized.

"This commitment represents not just our moral responsibility, but also our pledge to build a healthier and more just future for all Washingtonians.

See PDF Version of Press Release Here:

Elevate Black Wellness Press Release (1)
Download PDF • 117KB

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