The Canadian Public Health Association is raising racism as a public health issue.

Backed by seven of its counterparts in provinces and territories, including the Manitoba Public Health Association, the national association released a position statement Monday emphasizing the negative impact racism can have on mental and physical health, as well as health-related behaviours.

The statement said it “recognizes that we are all either overtly or inadvertently racist and that the influence of this racism affects the health of individuals and populations.”

It also acknowledged that as an organization, it has historically been “slow or reticent to respond to systemic racism” and has played a role in maintaining “the underlying structures and attitudes that have resulted in racist behaviour within the Association, and among the public health and governmental structures it wishes to influence.”

The CPHA said it is taking action by conducting a review with the aim of eliminating processes that could lead to racist behaviour and having its staff and board undertake anti-racism training. It also said it will assess changes to make sure they don’t spur further stigmatization or racialization, and an Indigenous Relations Advisory Committee has also been established.

The statement calls on agencies and organizations working in health and social services to take specific actions, such as adopting a formal statement that condemns racism.

It also calls on government and government agencies to identify and remove racist approaches and take steps towards addressing the recommendations made in 2015 by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Seven of its 94 ‘Calls to Action’ fell under the heading of health.

First Nations doctors have been outspoken about widespread discrimination and unequal access to treatment in health care systems across Canada.