A recent Dane County health report found that the gap between the life expectancy of Black and white women has grown in the past several years. And racial disparities in infant mortality rates, low birthweight and quality of life continue to exist in Dane County
Things like birth bonds, guaranteed income, and a maternal mortality review process could help bump up Wisconsin’s health grade on its next three-year report card.
That’s after the Wisconsin Governor’s Health Equity Council released its full report yesterday. The report details the state of health equity in Wisconsin and it includes more than a dozen recommendations for change.
Governor Evers created the Health Equity Council in 2019, asking dozens of top health leaders to make a plan to improve healthcare and decrease systemic health disparities.
The council had 34 members who met over 20 months to develop the 20 recommendations included in the report. They all include actionable steps so that lawmakers and the community can take action.
Gina Green-Harris is Director of the Center for Community Engagement and Health Partnerships at UW-Madison. She chaired the council.
‘When we developed these recommendations and this report, it was based on the need for all to understand in Wisconsin the current state of health equity and health inequities.”
It also includes statistics about disparities in Wisconsin. For example, Black people were incarcerated at 10.9 times the rate of white people in 2017. And more than 70% of white people own their home as compared to 27% of Black people.
Green-Harris says the council wanted to get to the root of these issues. The report emphasizes how disparities in healthcare are connected to other economic and social factors like education, justice, and housing.
“Lack of access to healthcare. What does that do? We know that further exasperates poor health, but that’s not the answer. The answer is let’s look at some of our access to healthcare agencies or let’s look even beyond that. Why are they happening? What’s really symptomatic about it? What policies are interrupting that?”
One council recommendation is to offer tax credits to employers of formerly incarcerated people to better support them in re-entry.
Dr. Michelle Robinson, the vice chairperson of the council, says economic development is at the root of many of their recommendations.
“If you are unable to access healthcare because you can’t get a job or if you are unable to access healthcare because you don’t earn enough to pay for healthcare through the open market, that means that’s a basic sort of essential requirement that you need to have your basic health needs met is inaccessible to you.”
Other council recommendations included expanding healthcare services to immigrants, tuition waivers for members of Wisconsin Tribal Nations , and establishing a council for Transgender Health and Safety.
Ultimately, the council has no control over whether these recommendations lead to change. They hope that advocacy groups will use the report to advocate for policy change to legislators.
Doctor Robinson wants people to read the report and consider these recommendations. She says that what comes next is dialogue.
“It represents the will and the interests and the needs of the people, and at the end of the day it’s going to take the people to be able to move any of those ideas further.”
Photo courtesy of LeeLeeee on WORT Flickr