The Wisconsin Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health has announced its 2020 Community Impact Grant awards for initiatives that aim to advance health equity and improve health and well-being throughout Wisconsin.

Initiatives that address the health of Black men and women, prevent suicide among Wisconsin farmers and promote economic stability and restorative justice are among the six award recipients.

Grants of $1 million each, over five years, support community-academic partnerships designed to improve health outcomes by addressing the social determinants that influence health and well-being over the course of a lifetime.

“The award recipients address issues that are key to our societal well-being: health disparities, including those directly worsened by COVID-19, and the impact of racism on health,” said Amy Kind, MD, PhD, chair of Wisconsin Partnership Program’s Oversight and Advisory Committee. “By addressing the building blocks of health—including social connection, employment, economic stability and access to care—these initiatives have the potential to forge new and innovative paths that dismantle barriers to achieving health.”

The grants were awarded by the Oversight and Advisory Committee, following a multi-stage competitive application and review process.

2020 Wisconsin Partnership Program Community Impact Grant recipients

Economic Justice Institute, Inc. (UW-Madison Law School), Legal Interventions for Transforming Wisconsin (LIFT Wisconsin) (LIFT Racine) (LIFT Dane): Advancing Health Equity Through Legal Interventions for Low-Income Wisconsinites

The goal of this initiative is to improve population health by reducing health problems that are fueled by civil legal injustices. The initiative’s approach combines technology and community-based programming to address legal problems that are barriers to employment, economic stability and health and well-being.

Civic legal issues like child support, consumer and medical debt and evictions, influence economic and employment stability, housing access and poverty, and chronic stress, and impact families and individuals who often don’t have the resources to address these issues effectively. This grant team aims to transform the legal aid system, court procedures and the policy environment through community-driven policy and a technology response to make legal services more accessible to Black, Indigenous and People of Color in Dane County (LIFT Dane), Racine County (LIFT Racine) and statewide (LIFT Wisconsin). By addressing issues that can be resolved with a legal intervention, through a system that is modern and accessible, this initiative will work to improve health and well-being for people throughout the state.

Academic partners: The Center for Patient Partnerships, UW-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty

Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness: Accelerating Health Equity for Black Women in Wisconsin

Through the creation of the Well Black Women Institute (WBWI), the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness will connect, train and empower Black women to reshape the conditions in which they live, work and play. Through this Institute, the Foundation will prepare women as health equity leaders to address the persistent health and birth outcome disparities plaguing Black women in Wisconsin.

In Wisconsin, Black women face higher death rates, lower life expectancy and some of the highest rates of infant mortality. Black families experience chronic stress caused by systemic racism and economic instability. These health challenges have been further exacerbated by COVID-19 and racial unrest. The WBWI will harness the talent and experience of Black women and provide them with the tools and training to become systems change leaders who can inform and promote policies and solutions to change how Black women experience health and well-being.

Academic partner: Population Health Institute

McFarland School District: Supporting Social Emotional Health in K-12 African American Students

This project is designed to make a substantial and long-lasting impact on the social emotional health of African American/Black students enrolled in the McFarland School District both now and into the future. While McFarland consistently ranks high among districts academically, their African American/Black students are not meeting critical health indicators as compared to their White counterparts. To address these disparities, this initiative will implement and expand the Natural Circles of Support program, in close partnership with student, school leaders, teachers, and families to change the conditions that perpetuate racial disparities and create a learning environment that ensures equity.

The project, with plans to expand beyond McFarland, will work to increase engagement and belonging, expand equity and improve teacher support and relationships with Black students to create conditions that support all students’ ability to reach their full potential.

Academic partner: Wisconsin Center for Education Research

Rebalanced Life Wellness Association and the Urban League of Greater Madison: Black Men’s Mental Health and Well-Being

This initiative, designed for and by Black men, aims to improve the mental-emotional health and well-being of Black men in Southeastern Wisconsin in order to achieve higher quality of life and longevity.

In Wisconsin, African American men have a life expectancy seven years shorter than white men and are more likely to report serious psychological stress and feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. Black men face health equity issues including low mental health literacy and education, stigma around mental health problems and lack of access to mental health support services. Their stress has been further heightened by the dual crises of COVID-19 and racial injustice. The initiative will normalize and destigmatize mental health issues in the Black community, improve access to mental health supports and help men address the historical and current health inequities they are experiencing.

Academic partners: UW-Madison School of Human Ecology; University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, UW School of Medicine and Pubic Health

Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program: Addressing Stressors, Preventing Farmer Suicide: Social Connectedness and Health

With this grant, the Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program will address the urgent mental health needs of Wisconsin farmers and work to reduce suicide risk in this population by developing a comprehensive range of interventions to create a system of support designed to foster farmer resilience. The grantee will work to strengthen the social connections in rural communities, educate farmers about farm diversification and financial stabilization and work to make mental health services more accessible and acceptable for farmers and their families.

In Wisconsin, farmers, families and farmworkers face health inequities due to challenges in rural communities including lack of healthcare providers and services, lack of insurance and often a stigma around mental health issues. Stressors like farm foreclosures, weather events, supply chain breaks and the COVID-19 pandemic threaten their health and well-being. This work responds to the mental health crisis facing farmers, and to their growing awareness and willingness to seek support and help from trusted resources within their farming communities.

Academic partners: UW-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, UW-Madison Division of Extension; Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies

YWCA Madison and Wisconsin Department of Corrections: Building Tech Skills, Opportunities, Health and Wellness for Returning Citizens

This grant aims to support citizens returning to their communities post-incarceration by providing technology skills, employment training and networking opportunities critical for achieving economic stability while fostering healing and dignity. Investing in individuals to create positive change in their lives and the lives of their families is at the heart of this effort. Providing access to long-term earning potential and career growth opportunities while addressing the diversity gap in the tech industry by helping to provide qualified candidates to area employers is a critical component of this grant.

According to Healthpeople.gov, men and women with a history of incarceration are worse in mental and physical health than the general population. The added hardship and adversity created by COVID-19 and the country’s health crisis of racism adds to their health challenges. This grant will work to improve health and health equity for returning citizens by providing support as they transition to life back in their communities. The initiative will engage returning citizens in the YWeb training program, and incorporate restorative justice into its approach and process, to help support and heal individuals and families.

Academic partner: Center for Community and NonProfit Studies

“COVID has shown us that the challenges we face go far beyond what the health sector or academia can address alone. These challenges require inclusive partnerships that depend on leadership and action at the community-level. As a longstanding member of the OAC, I have seen firsthand the value of community experience and engagement,” said Katherine Marks, OAC’s representative for urban health. “I look forward to seeing these partnerships progress over the next five years.”

“Since its inception, the Wisconsin Partnership Program has been committed to reducing health disparities,” said Kind. “This year’s awards recognize leadership from across our state’s communities. By supporting these teams and listening to their ideas, we can continue to make strides toward advancing health equity and resolving the health disparities facing our state.”


The Wisconsin Partnership Program at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health is committed to improving the health of Wisconsin residents through investments in research, education and community partnerships. The Wisconsin Partnership Program was established in 2004 with funds from the conversion of Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wisconsin to a for-profit corporation. To date, Wisconsin Partnership Prorgam has awarded 539 research, education and community grants totaling more than $254 million.