American Public Health Association: Racism as a Public Health Crisis

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Feb 22, 2023

American Public Health Association: Racism as a Public Health Crisis


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Feb 22, 2023

Mapbox celebrates and recognizes Black History Month in collaboration with our Black Employees @ Mapbox (BE@M) Employee Resource Group. Throughout this month, we have been focused on highlighting the significant impact Black culture and Black excellence has had on our communities through conversations and events with our employees, allies, and customers for everyone at Mapbox. 

We are honored to spotlight Mapbox customer, the American Public Health Association (APHA), and highlight how they use interactive web maps to raise awareness of racism as a public health emergency, both to track which local and state leaders have made declarations to advance advancing racial equity and justice, and to tell the story of changes being implemented by local and state leaders across the United States.

We sat down with Tia Taylor Williams who currently serves as the Director for the Center for School, Health and Education and the Center for Public Health Policy at the American Public Health Association, and Lawrence Haynes, M.A., a Program Manager for Racial Equity in the Center for Public Health Policy at APHA. 

Thank you both for taking the time to meet with us. Could you tell us more about your organization?

At the American Public Health Association, or APHA, our mission is to improve the health of the public and achieve equity in health status for all Americans. We are the nation’s leading public health organization which positions us to provide a scientific, evidence-based voice to policy and practice while also strengthening the impact of public health professionals nationwide. 

APHA champions the health of all people and all communities. We strengthen the public health profession. We speak out for public health issues and policies backed by science. We are the only organization that combines a 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public's health.

I’m interested to see how you use Mapbox in your industry. Why did you decide to start using Mapbox? 

We learned of Mapbox’s Community team through a personal relationship held by one of our team members. We did not have a budget to turn our static list of declarations into something more interactive. We were very excited to learn about the possibility of turning our tracking into something more interactive by working with Mapbox’s community team. 

Using the tools available from Mapbox has allowed APHA and our partners to track the states, cities, counties, local education agencies and public health affiliates that have declared racism a public health crisis.

Wow, could you tell us more about declarations and how you used the Mapbox tool to help you declare racism a public health crisis?

The declarations map is one of our most frequently visited pages on our website ( Users have told us that it’s a very valuable resource for seeing both the spread and concentration of declarations across the country. Local governments learn a lot from each other. Our platform allows them to see what neighboring or similar jurisdictions have passed declarations, and this helps to facilitate peer to peer sharing that is a key component of local decision making. The map is also a frequently referenced tool for anyone exploring declarations of racism as a public health crisis. 

The storytelling map allows us to demonstrate what a select few of the jurisdictions have done since passing their declarations. It helps us begin to address the question of, we’ve passed the declaration, now what? It also helps to demonstrate what it means to operationalize advancing racial equity and justice. 

That truly shows how a map can create awareness and change. How did or does Mapbox meet your business objectives?

With health equity being a core tenet of APHA’s mission, our Mapbox racism declarations tool helps us see and understand the work local communities are doing to mitigate the adverse effects of racism on the health of our communities of color, and allows APHA to position itself to provide the resources necessary for local communities to implement equitable health policies and practices. 

We appreciate all the work you and your team are doing. You all are truly making an impact across our communities. Is there anything you’d like to share with our audience?

Yes, take a look at these resources:

Last but not least, what’s next on your road map? 

We will continue to update the map as more states, cities, counties, and organizations declare racism a public health crisis and look for ways to mitigate these effects within their own communities. We’d also like to expand the storytelling map to include more jurisdictions and detail their progress in advancing racial equity and justice through policy - and we’re excited to do it with the team at Mapbox!

Thank you Tia and Lawrence and the APHA team for your partnership this month. Please visit and follow them on Twitter (@PublicHealth) for more information.

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