Jennifer Miller, 608-266-1683
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) at an event in Milwaukee today announced Gov. Tony Evers is directing $16 million in grants to improve maternal and child health. Through collaborations with the Medical College of Wisconsin Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, the dollars will be invested in efforts to close gaps in maternal and child health outcomes. In addition, the initiative provides funding to DHS’ Maternal and Child Health Program to administer a grant program. The program will fund maternal and child health equity initiatives intended to combat maternal and infant mortality at the community and systems-level and strengthen health outcomes for families across Wisconsin. Each partner will receive $5.5 million to support their efforts.
“We can help build strong, safe, and resilient communities by investing in supporting healthy moms and babies,” said Gov. Evers. “We have to connect the dots to expand access to quality, affordable healthcare if we want to address the health disparities our state has faced for years. I’ve always said that what’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state, and these investments are critical for supporting kids and families and creating the future we want for our state.”
A 2020 report found that Wisconsin had the worst Black infant mortality rate in the U.S. among 36 states and the District of Columbia. Infants born to Black mothers in Wisconsin are three times as likely not to survive before their first birthday as infants born to white mothers in the state, and this inequity has been largely unchanged for decades. According to the Wisconsin Maternal Mortality Review, maternal mortality rate for Black women in Wisconsin is approximately 5 times the rate for white women. These disparities are also present in Indigenous and Latino communities. Infants born to women from Indigenous and Latino backgrounds are 1.5 as likely not to survive their first birthday as infants born to white mothers in Wisconsin. The grants announced today, funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), will help bring together community organizations, healthcare providers, doulas, breastfeeding support organizations, people who have experienced high-risk pregnancies and pregnancy loss, and others to address social and economic conditions that can impact maternal and child health, like high-quality health care access, establishing continuity of care, education, poverty, and racism, that are essential in changing the trajectory of the health disparities in our state.
The Medical College of Wisconsin Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment and the UW School of Medicine and Public Health will use funds to implement community-centered grant programs. These programs will focus on the social determinants of health that impact the state’s maternal and child health disparities, including maternal and infant mortality disparities. This will help address factors that improve maternal and infant health such as:
- Increasing access to affordable housing
- Providing employment resources
- Launching educational campaigns and outreach
- Expanding doula and midwife programs and outreach (including training)
- Training community health workers and implementing community health worker models
- Expanding programs supporting recently incarcerated mothers
- Providing pre-conception care and education
- Implementing prevention strategies to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality
“The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health is proud to be a partner in this effort and is steadfast in our work to advance maternal and child health equity in Wisconsin,” said Robert N. Golden, MD, dean of the school. “This program is strategically aligned with our mission and enriches our commitment to advancing health and health equity in all corners of our great state.”
“Our campuses in Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Central Wisconsin have enabled us to forge strong relationships with community-based health organizations across the state. Thus, MCW is well-positioned to promote the availability of these significant new funds and to identify innovative projects that this funding will propel forward,” said Dr. John R. Raymond, Sr., MD, president and chief executive officer of the Medical College of Wisconsin.
In alignment with these grants, DHS has launched the Advancing Equity in Maternal and Child Health Grant Program. $5 million in ARPA funding will support innovative projects and programs designed to disrupt inequities in health outcomes for infants, children, birthing people, and people of reproductive age.
The priority areas for this investment include:
- Social determinants of health, such as food security, affordable housing, employment, and social connections
- Mental well-being
- Building responsive and equitable health care systems (for example, training providers or health systems on the role of doulas and community health workers, training providers, or health systems)
- Perinatal workforce development (for example, training or reimbursement of doula services or community health workers)
- Connecting families to information and resources (targeted community outreach or education campaigns, related to the above priority topics)
- Wraparound support for perinatal populations in uncertain situations, such as those without housing or incarceration
This program is made possible with both ARPA and Title V funds provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services that are dedicated to improving maternal and child health outcomes.
“Through these grant funds, partners will be able to develop a comprehensive approach to improving health outcomes for Wisconsin's vulnerable populations that is both impactful and self-sustaining,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “Leveraging these existing partnerships that have the statewide reach, capacity, and experience to develop and grow an infrastructure with community partners and the financial capability to ensure the work can continue after these initial funds are exhausted.”