Resilient Wisconsin: About

People sitting as part of a group therapy sessionBuilding a healthier, more resilient Wisconsin is going to take all of us. That means people who have faced stress, trauma, risk factors like harmful substance use and other adversities aren’t in this effort alone.

Resilient Wisconsin is connecting and collaborating with community partners around the state—in health organizations, as well as state and local agencies and departments—to promote resilience-building ideas and efforts across a variety of interconnected priority areas. We use a continuum of primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention methods, from early upstream prevention efforts to intervention care and treatment. This is all done to identify and normalize effective help-seeking and resilience-building behaviors, address the interconnected causes and consequences of chronic, toxic stress, and help reduce the stigma experienced by those who live with or are affected by trauma in all its forms.

Pursuing health equity through upstream prevention

Everyone deserves the same opportunities for a healthy life. But our ability to thrive is often impacted by social determinants of health, the conditions in which people are born, live, work, and grow. These upstream factors influence health outcomes throughout our state. 

According to the Healthiest Wisconsin 2020 Baseline and Health Disparities Report, racial and ethnic minorities, those with less income or education, people living with disabilities, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) community, and people living in rural areas and Milwaukee County are among those populations that experience disparities in health risk behaviors and health outcomes in Wisconsin.

Their lives are connected by the root causes of Wisconsin’s health disparities and the underlying, often interconnected, causes of trauma and its related harms. That’s why Resilient Wisconsin is working to address mental and behavioral health challenges with early interventions that improve people’s social, economic, and environmental conditions. Because we believe upstream prevention can take us another step closer to reducing Wisconsin’s health inequities and preventing our toughest health challenges before they can take root.

Preventing harm before it occurs

Many people must contend with a “broken bridge” in their life or community. That’s because mental and behavioral health challenges can sweep us toward negative outcomes like a strong current. When that happens, our ability to sink or swim is often impacted by social determinants of health, the conditions in which people are born, live, work and grow. But we can help communities reduce and prevent trauma’s most devastating effects by investing in prevention early and at every stage. Need an example? Imagine standing along the banks of a rushing river…

An illustration of a rushing river.

An illustration of two people in a rushing river in need of immediate help

Tertiary prevention

Imagine you see people struggling in the water. It’s clear that without help, they could drown. Person after person is pulled to shore. They’re weak and cold, and some are clearly ill. Before long, more people float by. It’s a struggle to rescue as many people as possible

Why intervene here? It’s important to help people in urgent need. When individuals face a crisis, tertiary prevention services offer vital treatment options that help individuals cope and recover. These interventions are essential for dealing with the consequences of trauma.


An illustration of two people struggling to stay above water in a rushing river

Secondary prevention

Imagine the rush of people isn’t stopping. Upstream, there are people clinging to tree branches and rocks in the water. They haven’t been swept away by the current yet, but they still need help. Life preservers are thrown to those in the water.

Why intervene here? Giving people tools and support for improving their own health is key. Secondary prevention programs provide a critical early response to behavioral health challenges. Such midstream interventions can help individuals avoid further harm.


An illustration of two people walking up to a broken bridge over a rushing river

Primary prevention

Imagine life jackets are being handed out when there is a distant scream. A person upstream has fallen through a hole in an old bridge and splashed into the river below. That’s it! If someone doesn’t post warning signs or repair the bridge, more people will fall in. Fixing this bridge will help keep people safe today and for years to come.

Why intervene here? Helping people build resilience can prevent harm before it occurs. That’s why primary prevention takes place upstream. By addressing the root causes of public heath challenges, these interventions have the power to strengthen and protect communities as well as individuals.

Download our guide to upstream prevention
The cover of the Moving Prevention Upstream brochure

Resilient Wisconsin’s brochure about one community’s broken bridge that can help readers understand the impact and importance of upstream prevention efforts. Want to share it with others? Download the format that’s right for you:



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Last Revised: September 24, 2020