The Wisconsin Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health seeks to reduce health disparities and improve the quality of life for all state residents. The Partnership Program’s Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families addresses one of the most perplexing disparities in Wisconsin – infant mortality.

This innovative community-academic collaboration is designed to improve local conditions that lead to healthier birth outcomes among African American families in Kenosha, Milwaukee and Racine. These three cities in southeastern Wisconsin account for 85 percent of African American births in the state.

Gina Green-Harris is the director and principal investigator of the program office.

An African American baby born in Kenosha, Milwaukee or Racine is almost three times more likely to die before his or her first birthday than a white infant. To ensure that African American infants survive and thrive in these cities, community residents, community leaders, organizations, agencies and other professionals have joined forces to establish the Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative collaboratives.

Each collaborative has developed a community action plan which guides its efforts to improve birth outcomes in its respective community. The plans feature guiding principles, priorities and recommended approaches focused on each community’s specific needs and issues of concern related to infant mortality including:

  • Improving health care for African American women
  • Supporting father involvement with children and families
  • Increasing family-sustaining jobs
  • Addressing stress and mental health

Additional Lifecourse Initiative project grants in these communities have also focused on improving health care, increasing family and community support and improving community conditions to positively impact birth outcomes.

The Wisconsin Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System guides the initiative’s surveillance and evaluation efforts. The Lifecourse Initiative analyzes and moves data to action to help stakeholders better understand factors related to disparities in birth outcomes and inform strategies to address them.