Wisconsin is a state with stark and persistent health disparities disproportionally affecting racial and ethnic minorities and rural populations. Milwaukee is one the most segregated cities in the U.S. with 40 percent of its population being African-American and a growing Hispanic/Latino population that based on 2010 U.S. Census comprised 17.3 percent of population.

To understand causes and consequences of ongoing health disparities, it is important to have a truly representative sample of individuals from all communities to provide evidence-based solutions to local and state policymakers and health care providers. Yet, minorities are still largely under-represented in current biomedical and population research. 

One of the barriers for conducting research in Hispanic communities is a general mistrust of authorities. Over the years, the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW) has been building partnerships with community leaders throughout the state to gain trust and to design health research surveys that address issues and problems that are important to the particular community. One such partnership we started building in early 2018, and fostered by previous UW collaborations, is with leaders in the Latino population on the South Side of Milwaukee. SHOW is collaborating with the United Community Center to identify specific health-related topics that will not only support innovative biomedical research, but also provide data to support community-based health promotion efforts. Based on input from community focus groups and guidance from community leaders, SHOW and United Community Center have selected priority topics that include: access to proper healthcare and family history of diabetes and other diseases.   

SHOW is a population-based research study aiming to have a representative statewide sample of Wisconsin residents and has traditionally recruited members of randomly selected households to participate in the survey. However, for this pilot study, community leaders recommended finding an alternative to randomly knocking on doors due to fear and mistrust that exist in the Latino community. Instead, we will offer open recruitment at United Community Center and various community events where interested individuals will be able to sign up for the survey at sponsored events and various community events. We plan to enroll up to 100 adults who meet the eligibility criteria. United Community Center has provided guidance along the way and plans to continue to provide community input, meeting space, and professional support as this study progresses. To build trust with the community and to increase the successful execution of this pilot, SHOW will have bilingual and bicultural field interviewers, and will provide interpreters at bio-sample collection appointments. Another important step in the preparation for this pilot was translation of SHOW survey questionnaires, recruitment and outreach materials to Spanish.

This pilot study is SHOW’s latest initiative to strengthen community based research and collaboration. In addition to the close partnership with United Community Center, this study also draws upon the UW Masters in Public Health program. Through a project assistantship and MPH fieldwork, current MPH student, Allison Rodriguez has provided project coordination, translation of SHOW documents and support both in the field and administratively. SHOW also relies on our Community Outreach Specialist, Tara Jackson, to represent SHOW at community events, to provide feedback based on work in the field, and to form key partnerships in the Milwaukee area. Moving forward SHOW hopes to continue developing partnerships and collaboration both in the Milwaukee area and across UW-Madison departments.

Additional benefit of this pilot study for us and a broader UW research community is a hands-on experience with developing strategies to better adapt health surveys to meet local community needs and interests that will potentially include bilingual field team members in the statewide core survey in future years. We are at the final stages of preparation phase of this study and we expect that the fieldwork will begin in early 2019.