17 May Spectrum: Wisconsin health leaders create new office to improve healthcare for minority groups
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services on Monday announced the creation of a new branch to improve health outcomes of historically underrepresented groups.
The Office of Health Equity will conduct research and policy analysis to address the social determinants, or root causes, of health. This includes access to housing, stable income and health care.
According to the DHS, structural racism contributes directly to unequal access to wealth, housing, food and health care. All of these factors, in turn, have a profound impact on how long people live and how healthy they are.
“One of my top priorities has been making health care more accessible and affordable while working to improve health outcomes,” Gov. Tony Evers said. “COVID-19 has only underscored the work we have to do to address inequities, reduce health disparities, and build a state that works for everyone. I’m proud of the work our agencies have been doing to connect the dots on this issue and that DHS is doing to make long-lasting changes that prioritize the health and well-being of folks across our state.”
The new Office of Health Equity will coordinate existing and new efforts on equity and inclusion across DHS. It will:
- Implement strategies to build an infrastructure and culture committed to equity and inclusion.
- Provide statewide leadership for policy measures that aim to improve the health of vulnerable populations in Wisconsin.
- Assure coordination of efforts intended to reduce health disparities.
- Minimize the impacts of health disparities in our communities by evaluating and proposing changes to DHS policies and budget.
- Create an extensive network of community and agency partners, both formal and informal. Fostering these types of community partnerships will not only extend the reach of our work but also enrich our efforts by centering diverse perspectives.
- Provide data analysis to help leadership and program staff make data informed decisions on policy areas that affect millions of Wisconsinites.
The office will be led by a brand-new position, the Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, that will provide strategic and programmatic leadership for health initiatives, including breaking down barriers and infusing equity into programs and outreach. The director will have the opportunity within state government to build a new office from the ground-up and implement the mission, vision, and values of the office.
“The Office of Health Equity will need a strong, talented, entrepreneurial leader who will help us put our commitment to reducing health disparities into action,” secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said. “We are seeking candidates from all backgrounds with a variety of lived experiences to apply for this role. Our future leader will shape the future of our agency’s diversity, equity, and inclusion work both within the internal workforce culture and for the externally facing work of DHS.”