Three new Community Impact awards from the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health will support and expand innovative health projects that address diverse health and health equity issues. The grants, each totaling $1 million over five years, aim to influence policy, systems and environmental changes that will improve health for people in Wisconsin.


Improving Health Through Enhanced Work

Poor health can undermine sustainable employment, specifically among vulnerable populations. Additionally, exposure to early adversity and trauma has also been shown to interfere with job-related outcomes. To address these issues, the Community Advocates’ Public Policy Institute and its academic partners at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have developed the Improving Health Through Enhanced Work project.

This project will build upon the success of Wisconsin’s Transitional Jobs Program by facilitating access to primary and behavioral health care for job-seeking individuals in order to increase their employability. The project includes enrolling individuals in transitional jobs (subsidized employment), assisting them with obtaining health insurance coverage, and conducting a primary care physician visit and trauma screening with a brief intervention and follow-up referral if necessary.

Over the project’s five-year course, it will work with partners in Milwaukee, expand to rural Wisconsin areas and after successful implementation and evaluation in multiple areas, it will advocate for the expansion of transitional jobs with health enhancement.

By addressing the primary health needs and previous traumatic experiences of Wisconsin’s jobless citizens, the project hopes to help people not only start jobs and become more productive, but thrive in the workplace and live healthier lives.

Health Policy for Wisconsin Communities

Across Wisconsin, opportunities to live a long, healthy life are not shared equally by all. The results are clear in local and state-level data: Many of Wisconsin’s health outcomes lag behind national averages, and Wisconsin is home to some of the most extreme health disparities by race and income in the nation.

Local governments are on the front lines of these challenges. Every day, they deal with the negative outcomes in lost productivity, high health care costs and reduced quality of life. Local governments also have the opportunity to directly influence and improve many of the determinants of health and health equity, through their enforcement of building codes, maintenance of public streets and sidewalks, water treatment, their mix of energy use, management of parks and recreational spaces, and zoning for urban agriculture.

But few local governments are using these policy tools to improve community health and wellbeing in a comprehensive and systematic way. Even where there is political will to take such an approach, they face barriers in staff time and capacity, and lack the requisite tools and training.

The Health Policy for Wisconsin Communities project aims to improve health and health equity at the community level by implementing a Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach, a proven framework for comprehensive and collaborative government action.

Through a partnership with two existing networks — one of UW academic partners and a second of local governments and non-governmental organizations — the project aims to embed consideration of health and equity within the regular operation of city, village and county departments and staff.

Specifically, the UW UniverCity Alliance will work with communities within the Green Tier Legacy Communities network. The project’s goal is to help participating municipalities achieve gains in at least one of four policy areas of interest: active transportation, local food, healthy housing and water quality.

As these local governments implement HiAP, health and health equity will be woven into conversations and decisions about future policies and programs, leading to long-term health gains in these communities and serving as model for other Wisconsin communities.

Race to Equity

Persistent racial disparities in health, education, child welfare, criminal justice, employment and income are common throughout Wisconsin. These racial disparities compromise the opportunity for many children and families to live safe, healthy and successful lives. Through this project, the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families will broaden its efforts to reduce racial disparities across Wisconsin by supporting local community efforts to develop community-informed policy agendas and structures that promote the advancement of racial equity.

Race to Equity: Wisconsin will work with communities from around the state and will provide training, technical assistance and coaching on topics such as:

  • community-based research
  • data collection and analysis
  • practicing equity in community engagement and mobilization
  • framing issues of race and equity
  • working toward developing an evidence-based racial equity policy agenda

The project will work toward the development of local racial-equity policy agendas that can be extended toward a community-informed, state-level racial equity policy agenda to ultimately improve the well-being of children and families of color in Wisconsin, and address the underlying social determinants of health that threaten the health and well-being of Wisconsin children and families regardless of race, ethnicity or class.

About the Wisconsin Partnership Program

The Wisconsin Partnership Program represents a far-reaching commitment by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health to improve health and well-being of Wisconsin residents through investments in research, education and community partnerships. Established in 2004, the Wisconsin Partnership Program has awarded more than 430 research, education and community partnership grants totaling more than $187 million, aimed at improving the health of the people of Wisconsin.