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Healthy Metric Releases Report Evaluating Change in Health Disparities in Wisconsin

Healthy Metric, a statewide partnership dedicated to advancing health equity in Wisconsin, has released a report evaluating the change in health disparities in blood sugar, blood pressure, and colorectal cancer screening disparities across Wisconsin.

The report titled, “2024 Evaluating Change in Health Disparities in Wisconsin: Blood Sugar, Blood Pressure, and Colorectal Cancer Screening” identifies gaps in blood sugar, blood pressure, and colorectal cancer screening across various demographics, including race and ethnicity and rural and urban geography. The data used in the report were sourced from health system data submitted to the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality (WCHQ) for the year before the COVID-19 pandemic (December 2018) and the recovery phase of the pandemic (June 2023).

One of the key findings of this report finds notable improvements in blood sugar control in diabetes for Hispanic/Latino Wisconsinites. The group improved blood sugar control by 4.9% from 2018 to 2023. Furthermore, American Indian Wisconsinites had an increase of 3.4% for the same measure. Though the disparity gap for these groups still exists, it was narrowed.

The report also indicates that, compared to 2018, blood pressure control in 2023 was slightly lower than or similar to pre-pandemic levels for all race/ethnicity and geography groups, leaving disparity gaps unchanged.

Most likely due to longer wait times for colonoscopies during the pandemic and ongoing recovery, the report found that colorectal cancer screening performance worsened among all race/ethnicity and geography groups. The groups most impacted include Black and Hispanic/Latino Wisconsinites and residents of urban underserved areas, substantially widening the disparity gaps for these groups.

“We have gone through such challenges with the pandemic, but our health systems are working hard to come back from it and at the same time tackle health disparities,” says Joan Neuner, MD, MPH, an internal medicine specialist and Georgia Carroll Professor of Women’s Health, Department of Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. “In this report, we saw hopeful signs that those efforts may be starting to bear fruit in hypertension care. It is essential that we work collaboratively to continue to improve healthcare in high priority areas. We need to be sure that key chronic and preventive care such as diabetes care, hypertension care and colon cancer screening leave no one behind.”

Maureen Smith, MD, PhD, MPH, professor of Population Health Sciences at UW-Madison, emphasized the coordinated action needed to address gaps in health care and outcomes, stating, “There is an opportunity for stakeholders across the state to take collective action to address disparities in blood sugar, blood pressure, and colorectal cancer screening. We have seen a resolute commitment from health systems and health plans throughout Wisconsin in addressing health disparities, exemplified by their transparency in making critical information publicly accessible.” Smith adds, “Now, armed with the invaluable insights provided by this report, we have a powerful opportunity to foster collaborative efforts among health systems, health plans, community partners, government agencies, and other stakeholders to drive substantial advancements in health care outcomes across Wisconsin.”

Healthy Metric’s groundbreaking work is made possible through a three-year, $3 million grant awarded jointly in 2021 by Medical College of Wisconsin’s Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment (AHW) and The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health’s Wisconsin Partnership Program (WPP). This collaboration brings together the two medical schools, the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality (WCHQ), the Wisconsin Health Information Organization (WHIO), and the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute (MCRI), the largest private medical research institute in Wisconsin.

Gabrielle Rude, PhD, president/CEO of the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality (WCHQ), expressed the organization’s commitment to addressing healthcare disparities in Wisconsin, stating, “WCHQ is proud to be part of the Healthy Metric partnership and to provide a rich dataset that shines a light on the progress of health systems across the state to improve health equity. The results of this report highlight the hard work of WCHQ’s member health systems to tackle persistent health inequities and the impressive impact their work has had so far. WCHQ and its members remain committed to improving health equity and achieving optimal health for all Wisconsinites.”

Data is an important tool to understand trends in health outcomes and care in Wisconsin. However, it is just one component in identifying and addressing health disparities. It is imperative to identify the areas where disparities exist to develop targeted interventions to eliminate them. Health systems participating in our project responded to health disparities by meeting monthly to develop targeted initiatives and share challenges and successes. There is more work to be done to reduce preventable health disparities in Wisconsin and improve care for all residents. Healthy Metric, with its diverse coalition of medical schools, healthcare organizations, and research institutes, is at the forefront of this effort, striving to create a healthier and more equitable future for all Wisconsinites.

To access the full report, please visit: 

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