Wisconsin's communities of color consistently score poorly on most health indicators compared to the general population. The state health plan, Healthiest Wisconsin 2020, declares that health disparities "appear to be worse [in Wisconsin] than in many other states" (HW2020 main document, page 6), that they "violate the values of justice and fairness," and that "they interfere with creating a healthy social and physical environment for all of us (in Wisconsin)." (Ibid, page 76) The Plan recommends that the Department of Health Services fund efforts to eliminate health disparities. The Minority Health Program is required by Wisconsin Statute §250.20(3) to fund activities that seek to improve the health of economically disadvantaged members of minority communities.
The projects funded 2011- 2013 aimed to eliminate health disparities by focusing on the root causes of health disparities, also known as socioeconomic determinants of health (e.g., lack of education, poverty, racism and other forms discrimination, unemployment, unhealthy environment, poor housing conditions and violence).
2012 - 2013 Community Grant Projects
Resiliency is Health: Youth Creating Healthy Communities--Freedom, Inc.
Freedom, Inc. is a non-profit organization that provides services to low- and no-income communities of color in Dane County. Its primary goal consists of promoting healthier living by looking at new definitions and solutions to end all forms of violence (including systemic racism, sexism, cisgenderism, classism, ableism, issues of nationality, etc.) against womyn, gender-queer persons and youth. Its roots of building healthy communities began in the Hmong community nearly a decade ago and have since expanded to include the Cambodian and African American communities where it has strong youth advocacy programs.
The overall goal of the Resiliency is Health project was to build new youth leaders to eventually engage in health justice work, advocacy and campaigns to make positive changes in their communities, families, and their own lives. African American/Black, Hmong and Cambodian youths, ages 12-24 years old were the targeted population. In addition, poor people and/or people of color benefited indirectly. The main outcomes of this project were to share analysis of health, food and land justice and what this means to each of the communities. Youths built their capacity to change social, structural and cultural norms that prohibited them from achieving healthier lives, through: 1) the convening of a Youth Health Justice Summit to develop a common language around health disparities; 2) creating alternative solutions to address health and food access issues, and 3) organizing and advocating for one policy change.
Building Healthy Refugee and Immigrant Communities- BHRIC--Pan-African Community Association-PACA
The Pan-African Community Association (PACA) was founded in 1999 to bring together people of African descent in an effort to address the needs of the increasing number of African immigrants and refugees in the Milwaukee area. These needs include language access; literacy skills; poverty reduction and health improvement. PACA addresses the community's needs through advocacy; cultural promotion and competency; education and services.
Since its inception, PACA's scope has expanded to include Asian and other refugee communities; the organization has been advocating for the promotion of healthy immigrant refugee communities by providing a culturally sensitive approach to serving the individuals and families that comprise the community. The Building Healthy Refugee and Immigrant Communities project continued this approach through the recruitment and training of health promoters from the Congolese, Eritrean, Burmese and Somali populations. Each of these communities helped select health promoters that were trained in health literacy on topics including social cohesion, self-confidence and personal growth as factors to improve health. Each cohort of health promoters functioned as a team in reaching out and building bridges between the different communities through health literacy workshops and a "kitchen table" approach of smaller workgroups. They served as role models to younger peers in their respective communities, while providing direct support to their families and raising the standard of living in their neighborhoods.