Black History Month 2013 – community engagement mission

Feb. 27, 2013 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 fourth 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 2013 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 (ROR-M) 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. Initiated 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, parents are advised by the pediatrician about the importance of reading aloud to children as early as six months of age. ROR-M creates literacy-rich waiting areas in the health care centers, where volunteer readers read aloud to children and families modeling reading techniques for children six months to five years, who are allowed to select a new book to take home.  Children older than five years can select a gently-used book to bring home. Since its inception in 1998, Reach Out and Read-Milwaukee has distributed more than 211,000 new or gently-used culturally- and developmentally appropriate books to nearly 40,000 children. This, in turn, has positively influenced the literacy environment for those children throughout the eight inner city sites.

There are eight 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, 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 each clinic with 25% of new books distributed, lost their federal funding 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, it will be critical for ROR-M to secure external funding in order to sustain the program at its existing sites.

Project Ujima

Project Ujima, created in 1995, is a violence intervention and prevention program committed to stopping the cycle of violent injuries to our youth. A partnership between Children's Hospital of Wisconsin clinical and community services 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 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. Violent injuries are associated with psychological trauma, poor school performance and repeat incidents of violence. Project Ujima uses a network of services that assist with physical, psychological and social recovery using 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. Project Ujima is a founding member of the National Network of Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Programs and helps other hospitals start similar services within their communities.

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 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 utilizes youth leadership councils (YLCs) as an educational intervention method across all four partnership teams. In November 2012, VPI co-sponsored the 10th anniversary Pebbles of Peace Outweighing Boulders of Violence Youth Conference with Cardinal Stritch University’s Leadership Center and the House of Peace. Youth shared their perspectives on issues that impact their lives. YLC members served as table captains by facilitating group discussion and hosting a working luncheon for community leaders to share with youth their experience working in their careers. The conference broke attendance records with nearly 200 participants representing 14 area high schools and community organizations.

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 140 projects HWPP has funded, 106 (or 76%) serve a racial or ethnic population.

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.  One HWPP-supported partnership that is addressing the health needs of the African-American and Black population is Reducing Racial Disparities Through Improved Hypertension Control in African Americans, a collaboration between the Medical College of Wisconsin, Progressive Community Health Centers, the American Heart Association, the Center for Urban Population Health, Lindsay Heights Neighborhood Health Alliance, the Milwaukee Area Health Education Center, and the Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association. The project goal is to develop, implement and evaluate a portable, cost-effective hypertension control strategy in a primary care setting serving low-income African Americans.

This pilot project incorporates a community health worker into the outpatient care of African Americans with uncontrolled hypertension.   In a series of six monthly session,  strategies for “self-help” are discussed, focusing on the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple Seven “ program for developing and setting goals for health lifestyles.  A Community Advisory Council provides culturally sensitive advice about program content. 

To date, 40 African Americans with uncontrolled hypertension have participated in the program.  Although it is too early to evaluate its long term impact, the program has been enthusiastically received by its participants.  Additionally, a number of impediments to hypertension control have been identified.