Dane County officially recognizes racism as a public health crisis following a unanimous Board of Supervisors vote Thursday.
The resolution acknowledges that racism threatens long-term individual and population health and is a cause of persistent racial discrimination in housing, education, employment and criminal justice.
Though Dane County has worked to identify racial inequities and develop and implement anti-racist and equity policies, County Board Supervisor Shelia Stubbs, District 23, said “we have just started.”
“We have so much more work to do to break down the institutional, structural racism that negatively affects so many people in our community,” Stubbs, who also represents the 77th Assembly District, said. "This resolution continues to move us one step closer to reducing our unacceptable disparities that exist and inequities that exist all across the lifespan of a person, especially African Americans.”
In Wisconsin, African Americans and Native Americans die at the highest rates at every stage of life, and the infant mortality rate for infants of non-Hispanic black women is the highest in the nation, according to the resolution.
All 35 supervisors present at Thursday’s meeting voted in favor. Two supervisors, Holly Hatcher and Yogesh Chawla, were absent.
With the approval of supervisors, the Dane County Board joins a number of local governments, non-profit groups and community organizations, including Public Health Madison & Dane County, who have signed on with the Wisconsin Public Health Association in declaring this message.
The local public health department has implemented initiatives that specifically address how race affects health outcomes, including partnering with the Dane County Health Council and its work to reduce Black infant mortality.
“The Board will continue to do the hard work to implement equitable, anti-racist policies and both lead and support the health and equity work of others in the community, including our Public Health Department,” County Board Chair Analiese Eicher, District 3, said in a statement.
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