Statement From Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James Mcdonald On Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Video Message from State Health Department Employees Honoring Dr. King Here

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 16, 2023) - “Today, we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his lifelong pursuits of eliminating racism, realizing social justice, and achieving equity. Every day, we at the State Department of Health strive to honor Dr. King’s work by addressing racial disparities in health outcomes, as we advance our mission of building a healthier, more equitable state for every New Yorker.

At the 1966 annual meeting of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, Dr. King stated, ‘Of all forms of discrimination and inequalities, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman.’ These powerful words still ring true.

New York is a diverse state, from its many communities to its differing geographies. It is our Department’s chief priority to build a health care and public health system that reaches everyone. Health officials are uniquely positioned to listen to, represent, and advocate for those we serve.

As former State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett often said, racial equity and social justice frames everything that we do as a Department. As the State’s new Acting Commissioner, I can assure New Yorkers that we are unwavering in fulfilling and furthering this commitment.

To improve the health of all New Yorkers EQUITY must stand as the foundation of our work. Through the establishment of the New York State Department of Health’s Office of Health Equity and Human Rights, under the leadership of Deputy Commissioner Johanne Morne, the Department has declared an intention to continue to advance equity and address inconsistent access to determinants of health.

Our focus across all program areas is to bridge health disparities, address inequalities, and advance equitable access to treatment and care.

While there is much work to do, our efforts cannot stop there. Addressing racism in health means that we, as public health leaders and workers, must speak out about systemic injustice, wherever and whenever we see it.

I am proud to lead a Department comprised of thousands of people deeply committed to realizing this vision. In a video here from some of our State Health Department staff, New Yorkers can hear what honoring Dr. King’s life means to them as they carry out our public health mission. Together, we will improve the health and well-being of all New Yorkers with equity as our foundation.”