A state health leader's views on racism cause strain in health department

Virginia's top public health official is causing tension in the state's health department for his belief that racism in healthcare is too political to discuss and for his refusal to acknowledge its role in health disparities, The Washington Post reported June 16.

Colin Greene, Virginia's top public health leader, has diminished the role of health disparities in healthcare outcomes and rejected the state-recognized declaration that racism is a public health crisis. He said racism is a term that carries "political charge" and thinks it will alienate white Virginians. 

"If you say 'racism,' you're blaming white people," Mr. Greene said. "Enough of the world thinks that's what you’re saying that you’ve lost a big piece of your audience."

This goes against the advice of public health experts who say acknowledging racism is the first step to address and eventually solve racial inequalities in healthcare. Mr. Greene's opinions on race, despite research pointing in the opposite direction, are causing tension in the department, according to the report.

One staffer told the Post that Mr. Greene gaslighted employees, reducing one to tears and left them unsure as to whether programs started during the pandemic could continue on under his leadership.

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