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Ronnie Dunn testifies before Ohio Senate Committee on racism as a public health crisis

Dr. Ronnie Dunn, interim chief diversity officer and associate professor of urban studies at Cleveland State University, provided testimony on June 24 before the Ohio Senate Health, Human Services & Medicaid Committee in support of SCR14, which would declare racism a public health crisis in Ohio. Similar legislation was already passed by the City of Cleveland.

Dunn, who serves on the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board and the Ohio Minority Health Strike Force, drew attention in his testimony to disparities in average life expectancy between blacks and whites in Cuyahoga County. He further noted higher rates of low birth weight in African Americans babies, higher infant mortality rates and greater susceptibility to COVID-19 because of an increased prevalence of underlying health conditions that make blacks vulnerable. 

He said these negative outcomes are a legacy of discriminatory policies and practices, including redlining. "These exclusionary practices coupled with disinvestment in black and brown communities perpetuate overcrowding and deterioration of housing stock that contribute to high levels of lead exposure, segregated and underfunded schools, high dropout rates, and high unemployment and crime rates," Dunn said. 

Dunn said he is cautiously optimistic about improvement in racial disparities. He noted that the COVID-19 health crisis created a captive audience to watch news of the murder of George Floyd. "This video struck whites in a way that others haven't,” Dunn said. “Families and children were watching, and parents had to explain to their children the situation in a way that hasn't happened before."

Dunn has been on the faculty at CSU since 2004 and is a graduate of the University’s Ph.D. program in urban studies. In addition to serving on the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board, he also provided written testimony to President Barack Obama’s Taskforce on 21st Century Policing. His most recent book, Boycotts, Busing, & Beyond: The History & Implications of School Desegregation in the Urban North, was published by Kendall-Hunt Publishing in 2016.
About Cleveland State University
Founded in 1964, Cleveland State University is a public research institution that provides a dynamic setting for Engaged Learning. With 17,000-plus students, ten colleges and schools and more than 175 academic programs, CSU was again chosen for 2019 as one of America’s best universities by U.S. News & World Report. Find more information at