Series

The health system in the U.S. is built upon a complex and interlocking series of relationships between medical providers, insurers, the federal and state governments, employers and the people who require preventive care and treatment throughout their lives. The enactment of the Affordable Care Act, one goal of which was securing coverage for more Americans, has profoundly transformed this system since its implementation, including in Wisconsin. At the same time, the political contentiousness of the law has added complexity and uncertainty to the health care decisions Americans make, and the future of the health care system continues to be an open question.More
Many Wisconsinites have experienced traumas in childhood, but their effects are not universal, nor are their burdens evenly distributed among the state's different communities. Depending on the individual, trauma can have a lifelong impact, affecting behavior, relationships and physical, emotional and mental health. The burden of childhood trauma and the toll it takes on individual lives and public health is attracting more attention by health professionals, educators and caregivers. As a result, public and private organizations around the state are incorporating trauma-informed approaches into their daily work with children and adults. These approaches are part of efforts to transform Wisconsin's human services and justice systems in the hope of providing better outcomes for traumatized individuals and communities.More
Since the turn of the century, Wisconsin's population has steadily grown more diverse, but there has also been growing understanding that the state has some of the worst racial disparities in the United States. Particularly stark indicators come in the form of health, education and housing struggles of racial minorities. These problems have deep roots in Wisconsin, from the establishment of Native American reservations to the treatment of the state's first Latin-American and African-American residents to the segregation of neighborhoods in Milwaukee. A growing body of research across disciplines ranging from public health to economics is revealing the far-reaching impacts of structural racism, and in the process outlines the challenges policymakers, educators and health care providers will need to address to make Wisconsin an equitable place for all people.More
Rural life poses distinct obstacles when it comes to improving health outcomes. The reality of distance is paramount — getting to and from doctors' offices and hospitals requires more time, and when there is an emergency, that issue becomes acute. A related concern is the availability of healthcare providers across broader areas, particularly in places where population is decreasing. Moreover, rural populations are increasingly becoming proportionally older than the state as a whole, compounding difficulties related to mobility, specialized treatment and end-of-life care. Public health efforts in rural communities focus on preventive goals that are both universal and particular to specific groups of people or conditions. As the demographics, economy and environment of rural Wisconsin shifts, so do the health needs of its people.More
Opioid overdoses kill hundreds of Wisconsinites every year, amid a nationwide surge in painkiller and heroin abuse that's been building since the turn of the century. Opioids are a category of pain relief drugs that include long-known substances like morphine and heroin, but also powerful synthetic pharmaceuticals like hydrocodone and fentanyl. Years of widespread opioid prescriptions helped initiate the crisis, and the increasing cheap cost of these drugs fueled the spread of abuse in rural, suburban and urban communities alike. All levels of government are mobilizing to address opioid abuse, and like many states, Wisconsin is adopting policies that focus on public health approaches over emphasizing criminalization. As the contours of this epidemic continues to shift, so do efforts to contain and reverse it among health care providers, law enforcement and community organizations.More