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MADISON — During National Minority Health Month this April, the State of Wisconsin is reaffirming its commitment to improving health outcomes for Wisconsin’s communities of color.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), including the Office of Health Equity, joined Gov. Tony Evers and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Minority Health in recognizing National Minority Health Month. 

Minority Health Month
Credit: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

This year’s theme, “Better Health Through Better Understanding” highlights the importance of the Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) model which aims to eliminate racial health disparities and advance health equity through using culturally and linguistically competent healthcare services, information and resources, per DHS.

“Each month, and especially during April, we strive to raise awareness about the health disparities affecting our state’s communities of color,” said DHS Secretary-designee Kirsten Johnson. “This month also provides us the opportunity to recommit to our mission – to protect and promote the health and safety for all Wisconsinites – by improving the health of marginalized populations in our state through robust partnerships, supporting community capacity and leadership, delivering culturally competent health education and preventative health services, along with supporting our Office of Health Equity and Minority Health Program.”

Disparities impact people of color

Disparities continue to persist and impact Wisconsinites of color and as a result, these individuals experience disproportionately higher rates of chronic illness and disease, overall lower life expectancies, and less access to quality health care. 

Wisconsin also ranks among the worst states for Black maternal and birth outcomes with rates of Black maternal mortality being nearly three times higher than the rate white women experience.

According to the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute 2021 Wisconsin Population Health and Equity Report Card, Wisconsin received a ‘D’ for its overall racial health disparity grade.

The 2018-2020 Minority Health Report and the Governor’s Health Equity Council’s 2023 full report, “Building a Better Wisconsin: Investing in the Health and Well-being of Wisconsinites,” both document the disproportionate burden of poor health that persists among racial and ethnic minority populations in this state.

Gov. Evers recently visited Racine to have a roundtable conversation discussing maternal, and infant mortality. Information was shared about the challenges facing those in our communities and plans to address them.

Minority Health Program designed to support

Through the Minority Health Program, DHS is working to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services with a framework that helps ensure healthcare support and services are responsive to cultural and language preferences and tailored to meet the needs of affected communities.

The program is operated by the Office of Health Equity, which supports these efforts by providing statewide leadership for policy measures that aim to improve the health of economically disadvantaged minority populations across Wisconsin.

The program also supports the work of partners and community-based organizations serving communities of color, especially in areas where health disparities are high.

“Our top priority is to improve overall population health in Wisconsin. This goal is not attainable if we do not find ways to improve the health of those experiencing some (of) the worst health outcomes in our state. At a population level, this all too often is our state’s racial and ethnic minority communities,” said DHS Director for the Office of Health Equity Dr. Michelle Robinson. “While we honor Minority Health Month in April, we don’t just focus on minority health one month a year. In our goal to improve population health, we strive to raise awareness around, and inspire action against, existing health disparities among our state’s diverse racial and ethnic minority populations 365 days a year.”

Learn more about Wisconsin’s Minority Health Program.

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