The Rock County Board approved with a unanimous voice vote Thursday night a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis.

The resolution acknowledges that racism causes persistent discrimination, is a social determinant of health and is linked to poor health outcomes, according to a draft of the document.

Rock County Board Chair Kara Purviance said the resolution is meant to function as a “policy statement” that “creates the expectation that we will fund future programs, initiatives or services that address these issues.”

“The resolution establishes the policy prior to the county committing to addressing these issues through funding programs and services,” Purviance said.

According to a study by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, the highest excess death rates exist for black and Native Americans “at every stage in the life course” in Wisconsin due to factors including racism and poor health care offerings.

A Rock County Health Assessment from 2017-2020 shows several health behaviors and outcomes are worse for minorities, including infant mortality, breastfeeding rates, premature death rates and children living in poverty.

The local goal includes having 50 health care providers initiate programs to ensure “culturally responsive care” and to improve health literacy.

Healthiest Wisconsin 2020 states that “Wisconsin must address persistent disparities in health outcomes and the social, economic, educational and environmental inequities that contribute to them.”

Approval of the resolution Thursday night followed a 25-1 vote minutes earlier in favor of a resolution condemning the death of George Floyd, supporting peaceful demonstrations and calling for action on racial reconciliation.