ASTHO Policy Statement on Structural Racism as a Public Health Issue

April 06, 2021

ARLINGTON, VA—Today, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) released a Board-approved policy statement on addressing structural racism as a necessary component in achieving optimal health for all.

The policy statement, entitled “Achieving Optimal Health for All by Eliminating Structural Racism,” includes four key components:

  1. Acknowledges structural racism as a fundamental cause of heath disparities and recognizes the role public health agencies can play in eliminating racism.
  2. Recommends that state and territorial health officials lead internal organizational change efforts that address structural racism in health agencies and support racial healing and transformation within state and territorial public health agencies.
  3. Supports jurisdiction-wide efforts to address and eliminate structural racism and advance health equity.
  4. Recommends partnerships and collaborations that support local, territorial, and state initiatives to address structural racism, promote health equity, and achieve optimal health for all.

“Research shows that persistent exposure to the stress and trauma of racial discrimination results in premature aging, poor health outcomes, and increased prevalence of certain chronic diseases. Black, Indigenous, and people of color face disproportionally high rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths. These disparities can be attributed in large part to structural racism and long-standing structural inequalities related to the social determinants of health,” says Michael Fraser, CEO of ASTHO. “It is imperative that public health leaders work together to prevent and eliminate structural racism and advance efforts that promote racial healing and transformation.”

“State and territorial health officials can play a critical role in addressing structural racism and, thus, advancing public health’s mission of assuring the conditions to achieve the best health possible for all,” says Nirav D. Shah, MD, JD, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and ASTHO president.

For more information, read the full policy statement online.


ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and Washington, D.C., as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.