Public Health Resources in Wisconsin

May 26, 2022 Posted by Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH


Wisconsin is not the healthiest state. In fact, we have some of the worst racial health disparities in the nation. 

But many committed individuals and organizations are working to improve the health of all Wisconsinites.

What are the governmental, advocacy, and membership resources available to improve and inform best practices in public and community health in Wisconsin?

The Wisconsin Public Health Association

The Wisconsin Public Health Association (WPHA) is a nonprofit organization that is an affiliate of the American Public Health Association. The organization is a membership association for public health professionals in Wisconsin with a mission of building a healthier and safer Wisconsin

The organization is working actively to eliminate health disparities in our state and address the root causes and social determinants of disease. They have identified their three top priorities as follows: 

  1. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. This means supporting the conditions that allow all people of Wisconsin to be healthy by diversifying WPHA leadership and membership and building alliances with organizations confronting racism and discrimination.

  2. Workforce. The organization seeks to support the development of a skilled, resilient, and diverse public health workforce by addressing racism and other “isms,” engaging with communities of color, and addressing the emotional wellbeing of the workforce.

  3. Advocacy. WPHA is supporting policy changes that will make Wisconsin a healthier state for everyone by focusing on anti‑racism and health equity, increasing the visibility of public health work, and striving for an adequately funded and better connected public health system.

The WPHA offers a rich collection of news, information, and resources for public health workers and leaders, and guides advocacy efforts.

Diversity Matters

Over time, reducing racial disparities in the public health workforce may reduce disparities in health outcomes. That’s the long‑term goal of the project Diversity Matters: Recruiting Wisconsin’s Future Public Health Workforce, previously funded by AHW.

The Wisconsin Public Health Workers Association has been a key player in this project working to interest more African American and Latino youth in public health careers. The project has focused on identifying barriers to a career in public health for communities of color and developing a creative social marketing effort to build a strong, diverse workforce.

Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards (WALHDAB)

This is a membership organization for local health departments, boards of health, and tribal governing bodies. It is organized by regions that align with the Department of Health Services—Division of Public Health. WALHDAB is working in partnership with others to modernize local and tribal health departments and address infrastructure issues.  

The association also offers resources and information on advocacy, including tips for reaching out to legislators, legislation notifications, and more.

State and National Government Resources

Healthiest Wisconsin Plan

Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services (DHS) is required by law to create a public health agenda every 10 years. The process of creating the plan is an inclusive, broad effort. More than 1,500 people from around the state helped develop the Healthiest Wisconsin 2020 plan. This blueprint for a healthier Wisconsin has two main goals: to improve health across the lifespan and to eliminate health disparities and achieve health equity.

Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH)

This key federal office oversees a number of public health and regional health offices such as the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office for Human Research Protections, Office of Infection Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy, and the Office of the Surgeon General. 

Communication Resources—The Stories We Tell

Unfortunately, the COVID‑19 pandemic spawned a whole new dangerous level of health disinformation, especially about the safety and efficacy of vaccines. As a result of the rise in COVID‑19 disinformation, the Public Health Communications Collaborative formed in August 2020. It is a clearinghouse for public health messaging, including talking points and guidance for addressing issues like masks, quarantine, vaccines, pandemic fatigue, and more. 

The Public Health Communications Collaborative also offers useful downloads, webinars, data, and messaging tips. The following are a few of the available resources:

  • Communicating Through COVID‑19 and Beyond: Impact and Insights from the Field of Public Health (webinar, messaging). 

  • Updated Toolkit: COVID‑19 Booster Dose Messaging and Outreach Tools (messaging, shareable graphic).

  • Toolkit: FDA Approval.

  • Travel Tips for COVID‑19 Safety (shareable graphic).

Collaborating for a Healthier Wisconsin

What all these organizations and resources have in common is the commitment to health and building more equitable communities to live and work in Wisconsin.

When communities are connected, communicating, and supporting each other, we can begin to tackle some of our state’s most pressing public health issues.

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