To the Editor:

The staff of Healthy Oxford Hills stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and those protesting the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and far too many other Black people.

We recognize that systemic racism threatens the lives of those who are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color, and also that it is a pervasive public health issue. A number of health disparities fall along clear racial lines, as made apparent by the fact that Black people represent 1.4% of Maine’s population, but account for 27% of our COVID-19 diagnoses—the highest racial disparity in the nation for this measure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2013 Health Disparities and Inequalities Report describes higher rates of preventable hospital stays, premature births, and asthma (to name a few health-related measures) for Black people compared to White people. Clearly there is important work to be done within our state and nation so that we can achieve the opportunity for all Americans to live healthy, fulfilled lives, regardless of their race.

Earlier this year, many of our staff participated in the annual 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge hosted by Food Solutions New England. The Challenge involved three weeks of learning about race and racism in America. While the Challenge focused on how these topics pertain to the food system, much of the learning was generalizable. We found this opportunity to be enlightening and valuable, and we learned about how to be better allies for People of Color. However, as allies we understand that we will never fully understand what it is like for a Person of Color to actually experience racism. We know that we have a lot to learn about how to be better allies and we are committed to doing that work, as well as to continually asking ourselves whether the policies and practices of our work are actively working to dismantle racism. There is much that we don’t know, and we look forward to learning both from, and with, our partners.

We encourage our partners to join us in learning more about race and racism. We recognize that none of us have all of the answers, but we can look inwards individually and as organizations, and outwards to our communities, to find actionable ways in which we can build on and support equity. Together, we can work to build a future where the health, opportunity, and safety of all human beings isn’t dictated by race.

Steven P. Johndro, MPH, MHA, MGH


and the Staff of

Healthy Oxford Hills

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