TFAH’s Board Chair and President and CEO, Statement in Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the National Day of Racial Healing


“Today’s observation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and tomorrow’s National Day of Racial Healing are a time to take action to end racism, heal the impacts of centuries of racial injustice, and promote equity for all people.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, long-standing structural racism within our society causes a disproportionate negative impact on people of color, especially during public health emergencies.

TFAH’s goal is to secure the opportunity for optimal health for everyone and make all communities more resilient. This includes advancing policies that promote health and address the primary drivers of health disparities.

We are committed to continuing to support and advocate for policies that overcome the impacts of racism and advance health equity. Meaningful change will require racial healing, which will in turn necessitate acknowledging the historical and contemporary impacts of racism, building meaningful relationships across communities, and policy change.”

Among TFAH’s policy priorities for promoting health equity in 2023 are the following:

Invest in policies and capacity to address the social determinants of health: Congress should fund the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Determinants of Health work to enable communities to work across sectors to address the non-medical drivers of poor health outcomes.

Target the elimination of poverty by implementing living wage policies and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit at the national and state levels.

Strengthen leadership for health equity and incorporate lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic into future preparedness and response capabilities. The White House, Congress, and relevant federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial agencies should continue to implement the recommendations of President Biden’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. The White House should create a permanent health equity infrastructure to implement and ensure accountability for these recommendations and bolster equity leadership and coordination for future health crises.

Provide job-protected paid leave. The pandemic called attention to the fact that paid family, sick, and medical leave protect individual’s and families’ economic security and are important infection-control measures. Congress should enact a permanent federal paid family and medical leave policy and dedicated paid sick days protections, including for preventive services such as vaccination.

Congress and federal agencies should ensure federal funding is reaching localities and organizations that represent and serve communities that encounter disproportionate barriers to good health.

Public health agencies should appoint chief health equity officers who would be part of the response, planning, and activation teams for all emergencies.

Increase access to high-quality healthcare for all by strengthening incentives to expand Medicaid and by making marketplace coverage more affordable for people with low- and moderate-incomes.

Increase funding for programs that promote long-term security and good health for children and families, including programs designed to expand access to affordable housing and Head Start, Early Head Start, and nutrition support programs such as Healthy School Meals for All, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

For more information, see TFAH’s reports.

Trust for America’s Health is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes optimal health for every person and community and works to make the prevention of illness and injury a national priority.

The National Day of Racial Healing, is sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. According to the Foundation, the day is a time to contemplate our shared values and create a blueprint for #HowWeHeal from the effects of racism. W.K. Kellogg Foundation (