Madison, WI (October 17, 2019) – We are excited to announce that The Dane County Health Council (DCHC) has received a $1M grant from the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. This funding will support the design of a county-wide coordinated care system that will address Black families’ unmet social needs.
Dane County is often cited as one of the nation’s best places to live and is home to some of the best healthcare institutions in the country. At the same time, our community experiences some of the nation’s worst inequities in health, educational and economic outcomes for persons of color, particularly Black women and children. Wisconsin Department of Health Services 2016-2018 data shows Black women experience low birth weight at 12% compared to 6% for White women. Black babies who are born early and underweight are at further risk of significant health challenges and death in their first year of life. Further, Wisconsin ranks worst in the nation for Black infant mortality: Black babies are twice as likely to die before their first birthday as White babies (approximately 600 births to Black women annually in Dane County).

In 2017, the DCHC adopted a shared goal of working to eliminate racial disparities by improving healthy birth outcomes for Black families. In 2018, we contracted with Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness and EQT by Design to conduct a community engagement campaign. This campaign engaged over 300 Black women and men to identify root causes of and solutions to black infant low birth weight through facilitated group discussions and participant surveys. Ten consistent themes emerged in this extensive campaign as drivers of maternal and child health disparities in Dane County’s Black population. These root causes, named by Black families, included stressed black family systems, generational struggles for economic security and the impact of institutional racism on Black life and progress.

Working to reduce racial inequities is the top priority of the DCHC. This project will support:

  • Continuous Black family engagement and leadership
  • Implementing a universal risk screener of social needs
  • Neighborhood-based community health workers, doulas and healthy birth ambassadors
  • Coordination of community resources and support

The long term goal of this project is to eliminate racial disparities in infant mortality and low birth weight as well as support overall family well being.

This initiative is one of six grants funded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health through its Community Impact Grants program. The initiatives were selected for their potential to create conditions, systems and policy solutions that lead to equitable and sustainable improvements in health.


About the Dane County Health Council (DCHC):
The DCHC is an unprecedented multi-sector partnership in Dane County including UW Health, Group Health Cooperative of South-Central Wisconsin, SSM Health St. Mary’s, UnityPoint Health-Meriter, Access Community Health Centers, Public Health Madison Dane County, Madison Metropolitan School District and United Way of Dane County. The DCHC has worked together for more than 20 years to eliminate gaps and barriers to optimal health and reduce disparities in health outcomes.