Black History Month 2014

Feb. 03, 2014 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 and staff 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.

All of the vignettes and stories will be added to the MCW’s Black History Month 2014 Web page as they are published.

Reach Out and Read

Operated by faculty and staff in the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Department of Pediatrics, Reach Out and Read-Milwaukee (ROR-M) is a pediatric early literacy promotion program that fosters providing an enriched environment in the homes of underserved and low-income families, including African-Americans, Hispanics and Hmong populations, by providing culturally-oriented books and encouraging parents to read to children as early as six months. Initiated in 1998, it is a joint program of the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

The distribution of new books occurs at well-child check-ups from the pediatrician and children are allowed to select a new book to take home.  ROR-M creates literacy-rich waiting areas in the health care centers by stocking those areas with gently-used book, where volunteer readers read aloud to children and families modeling reading techniques for children up to five years of age.  Children older than five years can select a gently-used book to bring home and parents/guardians may benefit from a visual screening to secure reading glasses. Annually, ROR-M distributes approximately 25,000 new or gently-used culturally- and developmentally appropriate books.  This, in turn, has positively influenced the literacy environment for those children throughout the eight inner city ROR-M sites.

The eight program sites in Milwaukee where the ROR-M books are distributed includes – 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, Next Door Pediatrics and Progressive Community Health Centers (Lisbon Avenue and Hillside sites). 

Reach Out and Read National Center, who supports ROR-M by supplying new books credits, recently lost their federal support in March 2011.  Although Reach Out and Read National Center and WI State Coalition staff continue to educate policymakers on the significant foundations of literacy beginning in infancy and the importance of taking a life course approach to education and early brain development, it will be critical for ROR-M to secure external funding in order to sustain the quality and vitality of the program.

Downtown Health Center

Medical College of Wisconsin doctors and staff, in collaboration with Children’s Medical Group, 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 80% 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, the Child Protection Center, the Birth to Three program, the Women Infant and Children program, and the Legal and Medical Program, which is a partnership with Marquette University Law School.

Violence Prevention Initiative

The Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI) is a special initiative of the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program. The goals of the VPI are to use a public health approach to decrease rates of violence in Milwaukee and to strengthen community capacity to prevent future violence.

Each year, violence causes approximately 50,000 deaths and results in over 2.5 million injuries in the U.S. Violence erodes communities by reducing productivity, decreasing property values, disrupting social services, reducing social cohesion, and increasing stress. 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 four community partnership teams – the Holton Youth and Family Center Collaborative, which is focusing its efforts on Milwaukee’s Riverwest and Harambee neighborhoods, the United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee, a collaborative of eight neighborhood centers throughout the city, Ripple Effect Milwaukee with programming at 16 Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, and the Safe Schools Healthy Students Initiative that focuses on the Lindsey Heights neighborhood. 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 reduce violence in Milwaukee. Some current programs that have been 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 semiannual community conferences, training for funded partnership teams, community cafes and community grand rounds.

The VPI has continued in our efforts to be a resource to the community with our collaborative outreach to educate and explore opportunities to promote violence prevention. Through a collaborative effort with the City of Milwaukee Department of Health and Violence Prevention, University of Wisconsin -Milwaukee CUIR, Community Advocates, and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin presented the Coming Together city wide gun violence summit with a participation of over 350 participants engaging community leaders and youth on the effect of gun violence in the community. VPI staff also worked in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee  as presenters at the Black Male Summit, reaching an audience of 400 African American males from Southeastern Wisconsin. The Summit explored issues and barriers African American males face in regards to unemployment, education, and developing resources within the community.

Asthma research

An MCW research team in the comprehensive Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease and Smoking Cessation Continuity Clinic Program is evaluating patient outcomes data to determine risk factors for asthma, which disproportionately impacts African-Americans and Blacks. The clinical program, in collaboration with Froedtert Hospital, has provided guidelines-directed medical care, patient education and counseling, and medication and lung function testing resources to more than 1,400 patients in the past nine years.

A recent study looked at the role of insurance status and outcomes from asthma. It was found that regardless of whether a patient has private or government-based insurance, African American and Black outcomes were not as good as Caucasian outcomes; however, after at least one year in our program, all patients improved significantly, but African Americans without insurance or with private insurance, and Caucasians with government insurance, still did not do as well as Caucasians with private insurance. Data also showed that once a patient is in a guidelines-directed program for asthma and has access to education and medications, obesity, not insurance status or race, was most related to greater morbidity. 

HIV/AIDS studies

The Center for AIDS Intervention Research (CAIR) at MCW is currently conducting studies which seek to reduce HIV/AIDS disparities in African American and Black communities.

HIV infection in the United States places disproportionate burden on communities of color. African American and Black men who have sex with men (MSM) constitute much less than 1% of the country’s population but nearly 25% of new HIV infections, and sharp increases in HIV rates among young African American and Black MSM in Milwaukee have been the subject of national public health attention and concern.

Throughout the country, African American and Black women are also disproportionately affected by HIV disease. Prevention of HIV infection and early detection and treatment of the disease requires research that discovers the reasons for these racial/ethnic health disparities and that then develops intervention approaches culturally tailored to meet the needs of African Americans and Blacks vulnerable to the disease. Studies being undertaken at CAIR in cooperation with community partner agencies are intended to improve HIV/AIDS health-related outcomes in the African American community.

Implementation, Effectiveness, and Cost-Effectiveness of an Evidence-Based Intervention Conducted by Frontline HIV Prevention Service Providers
In a five-year project funded by NIMH, dual principal investigators Steven D. Pinkerton, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at CAIR, and Jill Owczarzak, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, are collaborating with service agencies in cities throughout the United States that offer HIV prevention programs designed for African American women. The study examines how frontline health and social service providers implement evidence-based HIV prevention programs being disseminated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); how the agencies adapt, tailor, and modify interventions to meet the needs of Black women; and how organizational, community, structural, and client factors impact an agency’s ability to offer HIV prevention programs for minority women. The study also measures the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of HIV prevention programs carried out by frontline service providers.

Structural and Social Contexts of Substance Use, Violence and HIV Risk among Adolescent Gangs

Julia Dickson-Gomez, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, directs a CAIR research team that is carrying out a four-year study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to explore the role of gangs and environmental factors on gang members’ sexual activity, drug use, and violence. The project will interview members of African American and Latino gangs in Milwaukee in order to understand factors that influence substance use and high-risk sexual behavior, with a particular focus on social contexts and settings that contribute to risk. Study results will be used to develop a multilevel prevention intervention that targets multiple social health problems among adolescents involved in gang activities.

Prevention of HIV Infection in High-Risk Social Networks of African American Men Who Have Sex with Men
Jeffrey A. Kelly, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine and CAIR’s Director, and Yuri A. Amirkhanian, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, lead a team of CAIR investigators who are conducting a five-year study funded by NIMH to evaluate the effectiveness of an HIV prevention intervention undertaken with social networks of African-American and Black gay or bisexual men in Milwaukee and Cleveland. The project is conducted in partnership with the AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland. It uses a friends-reaching-friends approach to bring HIV prevention messages to Black and African-American MSM, including men hidden in the community and inaccessible to most traditional prevention counseling. The study determines the impact of the social network intervention in reducing risk behavior and also decreasing the incidence of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases among men of color who have sex with men.

CAIR is one of five HIV prevention research centers in the United States funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. CAIR’s missions are the development of improved ways to prevent HIV infection, the development of new approaches to improve the health of persons affected by HIV/AIDS, and disseminating the Center’s research findings to service providers in the United States and throughout the world so they directly benefit from CAIR’s work.



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