Health Equity

The Orange County Health Department (OCHD) acknowledges that public health is a system that was and continues to be structurally and foundationally built on racist policies, practices, and procedures. Due to this history, OCHD must actively work to gain the public’s trust and to grow the department to become a more equitable system.

OCHD also acknowledges that our county's marginalized populations face barriers across systems due to racial inequities in housing, banking, education, employment, etc. all of which contribute to poor health outcomes. This is why Health Director Quintana Stewart declared Structural Racism a public health crisis.

In 2017, a courageous group of staff began a health equity journey to ensure all members of the community receive health services and support based on their needs and not their race. This health equity webpage was created to help others in our community grow with us in this work, to show our community what strides we have made in this work, and to help us stay accountable to our community.


BASICS Opens in new window "The Basics"
 Find anti-racist resources for beginners

WHATWEVEDONE Opens in new window

View and hold accountable the work the department is engaged in an effort to grow its equity lens.

Ban MentholFDA Proposed Menthol Ban
From the desk of the Communication Committee of the Racial Equity Commission (REC)

Aggressive and targeted marketing of flavored tobacco has been a long standing tactic of the tobacco industry in order to lure young people into experimenting with tobacco products, addiction, and consequently premature disease and death.  The tobacco industry has especially targeted Black and LGBTQ communities with predatory marketing of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP states in a letter to the FDA that the tobacco industry marketing practices have been structured to result in harm to Black Americans. In 2019, the FDA found that there were 18.5 million people in the U.S. who smoked menthol cigarettes, which are disproportionately used by marginalized populations.  Approximately 85% of non-Hispanic Black or African American adults who smoked used menthol cigarettes.

The NAACP rejects the view that these bans would be discriminatory to Black Americans stating “that the failure to prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes and products would be discriminatory and counter the goal and function of the FDA to protect and promote public health for all, including the African American community.” 

On April 28, 2022, the FDA announced proposed product standards to prohibit menthol in cigarettes and to prohibit all characterizing flavors (other than tobacco) in cigars. If these proposed product bans are implemented they could save millions of lives and minimize health disparities that are exacerbated by menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.  According to the CDC, smoking is the #1 leading cause of preventable death in the US and tobacco use contributes to approximately 480,000 premature deaths each year.  The FDA estimates that prohibiting menthol in cigarettes would prevent 654,000 premature deaths, and 238,000 premature African American deaths in the next 40 years.  It is important to note that these proposed bans would prohibit the manufacture, distribution or sale of menthol in cigarettes and menthol flavored cigars.  These bans would not prohibit, penalize or criminalize individual consumers from possessing or using menthol cigarettes or menthol flavored cigars.

The FDA has extended the public comment period for the Proposed Rules Prohibiting Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars from July 5 to August 2, 2022.  Here is the link to provide public comment to the FDA


*Disclaimer: We reference many other organizations and works throughout our equity pages. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by those individuals and organizations do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the Orange County Health Department.