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Black History Month 2012 – community engagement mission

Feb. 20, 2012 College News - In honor of Black History Month, the Medical College of Wisconsin has created a series of video vignettes and stories that will be posted on InfoScope during the month of February. The vignettes highlight some of our African-American and Black faculty, staff and students and the contributions they have made. The stories highlight MCW programs that improve the health of underserved populations (including African-American and Black), offer these populations improved access to health care and education, and reduce health disparities.

The third story in the series features MCW community engagement efforts aimed at improving the health of underserved populations and access to health care services for these populations. All of the vignettes and stories will be added to the College’s Black History Month 2012 Web page as they are published.

Reach Out and Read

Operated by faculty and staff in the Medical College’s Department of Pediatrics, Reach Out and Read-Milwaukee is a pediatric early literacy program that promotes a love of books and reading to underserved populations in Milwaukee, including African-American and Black populations. Created in 1998, it is a joint program of the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

As part of the program, children receive a new book at well-child check-ups from the pediatrician, and at the same time, the parent is advised by the pediatrician about the importance of reading aloud. Volunteer readers read aloud to children and families in the clinic waiting rooms. Since its inception in 1998, Reach Out and Read-Milwaukee has distributed 187,000 new or gently-used culturally- and developmentally appropriate books. This, in turn, has positively influenced the literacy environment of the children it serves.

There are six program sites in Milwaukee where the books are distributed – the Downtown Health Center, the 16th Street Community Health Center (Chavez and Parkway sites), the Martin Luther King Heritage Health Center, the Isaac Coggs Heritage Health Center and Next Door Pediatrics. 

Project Ujima

Started in 1995, Project Ujima is a violence intervention and prevention program committed to stopping the cycle of violent crimes.  A partnership between Children's Services Society of Wisconsin, Children's Hospital of  Wisconsin, and the Medical College of Wisconsin, the program annually serves more than 380 youth ages 7-18 who suffer assaults, stabbings and firearm injuries as well as more than 500 adult victims of homicide, intimate partner violence, robbery and assault. 

Many of the children who are cared for through the program come from underserved populations, including the African-American and Black community. Since it was launched, more than 4,000 adolescents with injuries due to interpersonal violence have been treated in the Emergency Department/Trauma Center at Children’s Hospital. Because violent injuries are associated with psychological trauma, poor school performance, criminal detention and repeat incidents of violence, Project Ujima established a network of services that assist with physical, psychological and social recovery. To provide these services, Project Ujima has partnered with many agencies to promote youth and family strength via the arts, education, career development, sports and faith-based communities.

A national model, Project Ujima received the Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services from the Department of Justice in 2004.

Downtown Health Center

Medical College doctors and staff, in collaboration with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, provide high quality, affordable health care services to underserved populations, including African-American and Black populations, at the Downtown Health Center, 1020 N. 12t Street. The center is a general baby, child and teen health clinic and also serves as a teaching facility for the next generation of physicians.

About 95% of the patient population is on some form of Medicaid or BadgerCare insurance, and approximately 85% are African American or Black. Clinic faculty and staff work with many inner-city organizations including Penfield Children's Center, the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, the Visiting Nurses Association, the Children's Service Society of Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Health Department, and the Child Protection Center.

Violence Prevention Initiative

In 2010, the Medical College of Wisconsin and the College’s Consortium on Public and Community Health committed $8.2 million over five years to launch the Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI). The goals of the VPI are to use a public health approach to decrease rates of violence in identified areas of Milwaukee and to strengthen community capacity to prevent future violence.

Youth violence is a significant health problem in Milwaukee. More than 2,500 children and young adults are treated or hospitalized annually for violence-related injuries, and geographic disparities exist with some neighborhoods facing homicide rates nearly 10 times higher than the citywide average. As part of the initiative, the VPI is collaborating with two community partnership teams – the Holton Youth and Family Center Collaborative, which is focusing its efforts on Milwaukee’s Riverwest and Harambee neighborhoods, and the United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee, a collaborative of eight neighborhood centers throughout the city. These neighborhoods are comprised primarily of underserved populations including African-American and Black populations.

Using a public health approach, community and academic partners are implementing prevention and educational interventions based on best-practice models to make a substantial reduction in violence. Some current programs being implemented include the development of youth leadership councils and parent action councils, a youth mentoring program and a nurturing parent program. Other educational components of the VPI include biannual community conferences, training for funded partnership teams, and quarterly community cafes.

Center for Healthy Communities and Research

MCW formed the Center for Healthy Communities (CHC) in 1997 to develop community-academic partnerships that improve health in urban and rural communities in Wisconsin. In 2010, CHC converted to the Center for Healthy Communities and Research (CHCR) to combine both the center and the research divisions.

The goals of the CHCR are to develop, implement and sustain community-academic partnerships that promote health, conduct and disseminate research to address community-identified health needs, and collaborate to expand community-academic partnerships. CHCR partners include the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, S.E.T. Ministry, Inc. (Serve, Empower, and Transform), The Village at Manor Park, and the Milwaukee County Department on Aging.

Many of the urban partnerships are with organizations that address the health needs of underserved populations including the African-American and Black communities. An example of one such partnership is BRANCH Out: Building a Rejoiceful Alliance of Neighbors for Change and Healing, which is designed to reduce health risk factors related to cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes in African-American church-based communities. A collaborative of 13 churches and the Milwaukee Health Department, BRANCH Out has developed Church Health Action Teams, Youth Health Councils, and risk reduction educational materials distributed at each church.

Created in 2005, BRANCH Out received the President’s Community Impact Award from Dr. John Raymond, MCW President and CEO, in August.  

Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program

The Medical College’s Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program (HWPP) supports community-MCW partnerships that address public and community health improvement. Many of the partnerships are with organizations that address the health needs of underserved populations including the African-American and Black communities. Of the 128 projects HWPP has funded, 68 serve a racial or ethnic population.                                                                                           

One HWPP-supported partnership that is addressing the health needs of the African-American and Black population is Community-Based Chronic Disease Management, a collaboration between the Medical College, Columbia St. Mary’s , and Church of God in Christ Ministry, an affiliation of 42 Milwaukee Black churches.

High blood pressure leads to death in African Americans at twice the rate of white Americans, and also causes higher rates of stroke, kidney disease, blindness, dementia and heart disease in African Americans. As part of this collaboration, free community-based chronic disease management clinics were created in locations where high-risk people already frequent – like churches and food pantries – and lay members of each church were trained to educate other church members on the importance of regular health screenings.

Patients cared for at the clinics reach their blood pressure control goals at rates on par with those with private physicians, cholesterol levels have improved for those with high cholesterol, and blood sugar levels have been reduced for those with diabetes. 

Community Health School Nurse Program

Medical College faculty members collaborate with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin (CHW) in support of CHW’s Community Health School Nurse Program, which places a full-time nurse in eight Milwaukee Public Schools located in priority areas in the inner city. Students at these schools, grades K-8, come from underserved populations including African-American and Black populations.

The nurses provide direct care and screenings to the students, monitor the lifestyles of students with chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes, and coordinate care with physicians, social workers and insurance companies. They also work with principals and parents to improve the health and education of the students.

The priority neighborhoods in which the schools are located are Metcalfe Park, Franklin Heights/Amani, and Lindsay Heights.

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