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A Healthier Wisconsin: Health equity evidence-based practices supported by national and state organizations

What makes people healthy? While diet, exercise, and going to the doctor make some difference, there’s actually a lot more to it than that.

The Wisconsin Public Health Association (WPHA) is a membership organization comprised of over 600 public health professionals and organizations on a mission to build a healthier, safer Wisconsin through policy and partnership.

The Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards (WALHDAB) is a membership organization of 100% of local health departments and boards, whose mission is to be a statewide leader and voice for local governmental public health. As leaders in public health, we partner to assure that all people in our state have the opportunity to be healthy.

The Wisconsin Public Health Association and the Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards have prioritized health equity practices, and have publicly highlighted the importance of addressing specific aspects of health equity – education, housing, income stability/employment, criminal justice policies, and racism – in order more effectively create the conditions where everyone can have their best opportunity to be healthy. That’s the work of health equity.

Advancing health equity is a key priority for WPHA and WALHDAB and we support and encourage others in the state to work to advance health equity. But what does health equity mean?
According to the World Health Organization, achieving health equity means that “everyone should have a fair opportunity to attain their full health potential and that no one should be disadvantaged from achieving this potential.” We all deserve the chance to live a healthy life no matter our race, gender, income, religion, zip code, or occupation.

Research continues to show that the color of your skin, where you live, and how much you make are major predictors of your health, and your chances of reaching your full health potential. Research has also continued to show that we, as a society, can change these factors and have positive outcomes on health. That’s the work of health equity, and there’s a lot of evidence behind it.

The US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has a specific focus on eliminating disparities through evidence-based practices. So does the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ Healthiest Wisconsin 2020 State Health Plan. Governor Evers’ Executive Order #17 earlier this year also aims to address health disparities in populations based on race, economic status, education level, history of incarceration and geographic location. That’s the work of health equity.

The County Health Rankings and Roadmaps (CHRR) program, started at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and now nationwide through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), provides substantial evidence strongly supporting the work of health equity.

The “What Works Health” framework, also from UW and RWJF, highlights specific evidence-based policies and practices to improve health and reduce health disparities. Like the CHRRs, it goes beyond just Health Behaviors and Clinical Care, listing extensive documentation on evidence-based policies and programs to improve health in the areas of Social & Economic Factors and Physical Environment. That’s the work of health equity.

In Wisconsin, we are fortunate to have two specific endowments working to improve population health that are the result of the conversion of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin from a nonprofit organization to a for-profit corporation. The proceeds of the sale were given to Wisconsin’s two medical schools – Medical College of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health – to improve the health of all in Wisconsin. These medical schools then created the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment and the Wisconsin Partnership Program, respectively. WPHA and WALHDAB fully endorse the fact that the two endowments have prioritized health equity.

In summary, WPHA and WALHDAB strongly support and encourage the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment, Wisconsin Partnership Program, and other funders and public-health-oriented organizations across the state, to continue working to advance health equity. Our income, race
or place should not dictate our health. The evidence is in: We can and should work on health equity, so that ALL Wisconsinites can be healthier.


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