Today, the Governor’s Health Equity Council released its full report “Building a Better Wisconsin: Investing in the Health and Well-being of Wisconsinites” that includes descriptions of each recommendation. Established under Gov. Tony Evers’ Executive Order #17, the council was charged with creating a comprehensive plan to achieve long-lasting and equitable health outcomes for all Wisconsinites. In April, Council Chairperson Gina Green-Harris and Vice-Chairperson Dr. Michelle Robinson released an executive summary, along with the council’s prelude to the report and the principles established to govern this work. The council’s work focuses on improving our state’s overall health and addressing observable health disparities among populations that continue to experience the worst health outcomes due to where they live, their income-levels and access to wealth, or their race or ethnic identity.
“The pandemic has underscored that the health of our neighbors and communities is critical for the health of our state, and that every person deserves the opportunity to achieve their best health and to live a long, healthy life,” said Gov. Evers. “I want to thank the council for their dedication and commitment to helping prepare a roadmap for how we can create a stronger Wisconsin through approaches that invest in the health and well-being of all Wisconsinites as we continue our work to build a state that works for everyone.”
The full report details the 20 recommendations adopted by the council, along with robust data revealing the state of health equity in Wisconsin and an examination of the social determinants of health that contribute to differences in health outcomes documented across the state. The recommendations represent a strategic set of policy and implementation approaches targeting known drivers of poor population health outcomes and the differences in health that many Wisconsinites experience due to where they live, their race, or economic status. These differences threaten overall health and wellbeing for individuals, families, and communities across our state. The policy areas that the council focused on include health and community services, education and housing, family-sustaining fiscal policy, justice, and governance.
“This plan is designed to create a brighter future for all Wisconsinites. It is built with a vision for a stronger, more robust Wisconsin that recognizes, appreciates, and values our commonalties and differences. And to reach that goal, we must be inclusive, fair, and just,” said Chairperson Gina Green-Harris, Director of the Center for Community Engagement and Health Partnerships at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “We must be willing to challenge the status quo to transform policies and practices that we know continue to be obstacles for the most vulnerable citizens who have been historically, and continue to be, excluded from accessing opportunities that will allow them to be as healthy as possible. It is through the removal of these barriers that we can begin building a Wisconsin where everyone has the opportunity to be healthy, well, and live their life to the fullest. For that reason, we ask that our elected officials, members of the community, and experts across the state seriously engage with this report and commit to working and partnering together, and with council members, to make this vision a reality for our state. The future success of our state and its residents is what is at stake.”
Recommendations detailed in the report encompass policy and implementation approaches aimed at addressing issues such as access and quality of care, reenforcing existing and creating new pathways for economic opportunity, building critical infrastructure to close gaps in accessing technology, and strengthening our ability to proactively respond to threats to our collective wellbeing due to climate change. This includes increasing access to telehealth through broadband expansion grant funding across urban and rural communities, supporting economic stability for Wisconsinites with expansion of eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit and implementing incremental increases to minimum wage, increasing the use of peer support services in prison pre-release and transitional service programs, and leveraging interagency partnerships to improve population health data tracking infrastructure.
“Every family deserves to have access to the supports and services needed to thrive,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary Emilie Amundson. “But, we know that is not a reality for every family in Wisconsin. Thanks to robust data and the lived experience of individuals from across the state, the recommendations in this report offer a comprehensive approach that puts families and children at the center of policy and program transformation. I am hopeful that our partners from across the state will come together to make these recommendations a reality, and help us continue to build thriving communities.”
“There is a common misconception that health equity is reserved for only a small group of people — but the truth is, the prominence of health disparities is a population health failure,” said Vice-Chairperson Dr. Michelle Robinson, Director of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Office of Health Equity. “In Wisconsin, we have an overall population health issue that continues to be worsened because of stark disparities in health outcomes based on race, ethnicity, income, education, or zip code. Although this plan does not provide the end-all solution, it does provide a framework that, if enacted, would target many root causes of health inequities. This report presents a holistic view of Wisconsin’s most socially and economically underserved residents and the different factors that drive health outcomes in both rural and urban communities in our state.”
The report has been presented to Gov. Evers. To learn more about the GHEC’s work, committee memberships, and more, visit the Governor’s Health Equity Council webpage.