Poor children and people of color would be just as healthy, and grow up, graduate, and get jobs at the same rate as other children as part of the vision of a major King County initiative announced today.
"It is unacceptable that the color of your skin or your home address are now good predictors of whether you will have a low birth weight baby, die from diabetes or your children will graduate from high school or end up in jail," said King County Executive Ron Sims. "Even in a progressive, generally affluent area like ours, we have disparities that mirror national rates."
The long-term goal of the Equity and Social Justice Initiative is to end persistent local inequities and injustices that result in such things as higher rates of disease among low-income populations and disproportionate rates of young Black men in jail.
"Inequity, by its very nature, is a solvable problem," Sims said. "The reason inequity exists is that we have discovered solutions that work for some of us. We have just not applied these solutions to all of us."
King County has a high median income, but following the national trend, vast inequities exist in wealth, health and opportunities.
• A child in south King County is more than twice as likely to drop out of high school as one in east King County;
• A worker making between $15,000 and $25,000 a year is 10 times less likely to have health insurance than one making $50,000 or more per year;
• A youth of color is six times more likely than a White youth to spend time in a state or county correctional facility;
• A southeast Seattle resident is four times more likely to die from diabetes than a resident of Mercer Island;
• A Native American baby is four times more likely to die before his or her first birthday than a White baby.
Under the initiative King County is looking at new approaches in its work, including identifying and addressing the conditions at the root of inequities; actively seeking out and promoting decisions and policies aimed at equity; empowering communities; and raising the visibility of equity and social justice.
"We all need to own the reality of inequity by tearing down the curtain that hides it, by naming it, measuring it, talking about it, and by tracking our progress and solving it," Sims said. "We need empowered community voices to partner with government and others in shaping policies and decisions."
Local governments have great influence on criminal justice, public health, the environment and transportation, but sometimes even well-meaning projects can make life more difficult for people of color and the poor. To help change that, Sims will require an equity and social justice overlay on a wide range of county work, as well as invite school districts, other governments and agencies to work on promoting equity and an improved quality of life for all residents.
"All residents of King County would reap the benefits of ending inequities through greater economic vitality, a better educated population, a less expensive health-care system, a lower-cost criminal justice system and better government through a more engaged and representative citizenry," Sims said.
The new initiative and actions, including activities by eight King County departments, are outlined in the new report, "King County Equity & Social Justice Initiative: Working toward fairness and opportunity for all," available at: www.kingcounty.gov/equity