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New tools connect Wisconsinites to healthy communities

Any Wisconsin resident can now consult an online tool to learn exactly what his or her local community is doing to improve health.

The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute has updated and improved its online tool to help communities, organizations and individuals easily assess and share health-related work in their local communities.

The site, improvingwihealth.org, shows how local health departments and nonprofit hospitals work with each other and with other community organizations and members to assess local health needs and target priorities for action.

The top five priorities identified across the plans of Wisconsin hospitals and local health departments are alcohol use, diet and exercise, drug use, access to care and mental health.

The website gives every community a snapshot of local health-improvement priorities and action plans from across the state.

Building awareness of shared health priorities and the strategies being considered for implementation across the state and in local communities creates opportunities for shared learning and alignment of efforts, according to Sheri Johnson, director of the UW Population Health Institute.

This website serves as a resource to help those in the state working on common health challenges to connect with one another, share ideas and expedite progress toward community health improvement goals, she said.

“Where we live matters for health,” Johnson said. “This updated tool provides important data to support local and statewide efforts to create social, economic and environmental conditions that can have a positive impact on the health of people in our state.”       

The Institute collected community health needs assessments and implementation plans developed by hospitals under a requirement of the Affordable Care Act.

They also analyzed local health department community health assessments and improvement plans, conducted under provisions of Wisconsin state law. Where available, the Institute captured the specific strategies, tactics and programs being deployed or planned to drive improvement in specific priority areas and meet locally set goals.

Updates to the site include an improved layout; the addition of seven new health-priority areas, including education, employment, income, housing and transit; and more social and economic factors. The latter are increasingly becoming a focus in communities throughout the state.

Additionally, this portal serves as a resource for communities applying for the Wisconsin Healthy Communities Designation, a new program from the Institute’s Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health Group.

Assessing and Improving Community Health in Wisconsin is an effort of the Making Wisconsin the Healthiest State project, which seeks to help researchers understand and improve health across Wisconsin. This project is funded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program.

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