Wei LAB, Nehemiah examining ways to reduce health disparities

INNOVATION

Wei LAB, Nehemiah examining ways to reduce health disparities
in African-American communities

Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory (Wei LAB), led by UW–Madison’s Jerlando F.L. Jackson, is serving as the academic partner for a new initiative designed to improve health and health equity across Dane County.

The project — in collaboration with Nehemiah Community Development Corporation, Inc. — was selected this past fall to receive $1 million in funding through a Community Impact Grant via the Wisconsin Partnership Program.

Jerlando Jackson
Jerlando Jackson leads the Wei LAB and is a Vilas
Distinguished Professor of Higher Education, and chair of
the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy
Analysis.
Nehemiah will use the grant to expand its Justified Anger initiative through a new program called “Reducing Health Inequity through Promotion of Social Connection.” These efforts focus on reducing disparities in overall health among African Americans by ad- dressing implicit and structural racism.

African Americans in Wisconsin have lower health outcomes than their white neighbors, due in part to the powerful influence of their social and community context. These health in- equalities include higher rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, premature births, and maternal deaths. To address these health disparities, Nehemiah has been piloting a program designed to strengthen existing social and professional networks for African Americans.

This grant will implement a three- tiered approach that will involve education and training for grassroots African-American neighborhood leaders and professionals, and white allies through Justified Anger's Black History for a New Day program. The team will facilitate cross-cultural interactions with mentorship support that will result in building and strengthening social networks within each community. The efforts will help participants identify opportunities for collaborative action.

The Wei LAB, housed in the School of Education’s Wisconsin Center for Education Research, is responsible for managing the research and evaluation of these interventions.

“For the most part, the Wei LAB has been a resource globally sup- porting disenfranchised communities,” says Jackson, a Vilas Distinguished Professor of Higher Education and chair of the Department of Educational Leader- ship and Policy Analysis. “I am delighted to finally have a project that is local with so much potential to make a difference in Dane County.”

The Wisconsin Partnership Program is part of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. This year, the program awarded four projects with grants each totaling $1 million over five years to support large-scale, evidence-based, community-academic partnerships aimed at achieving sustainable systems changes to improve health equity in Wisconsin. 

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