Viewpoints: Health equity issue warrants more attention

Joseph Kerschner
Joseph Kerschner

If you haven’t heard by now, Milwaukee is hosting a little convention in July!

No doubt, it’s a great opportunity to showcase the many positives that exist in our region. However, like any community, there are challenges as well that can’t be ignored, and while we’re rightfully focused on wanting to highlight the positives, there is also opportunity to refocus on our challenges.

Research scientists and medical professionals at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) have been focusing much time and effort to identify and address the root causes of many of our region’s challenges, including improving equity in health as it relates to access and outcomes among disparate population groups.

Addressing health equity is vitally important in creating a healthy population – and a healthy economy. A population in which all individuals have consistent access to quality health care fosters a proactive approach to healthy living and provides greater opportunity for educational achievement and gainful employment for a larger number of people – which in turn fuels economic growth.

Addressing health equity is a critical issue to the overall wellbeing of our community and region. For this reason, MCW has forged a unique partnership with the Greater Milwaukee Foundation that combines the unique services offered by our respective organizations to address health disparities through civic and community engagement, research, and policy change.

While our region is not unique in its challenges, I am pleased to share that this partnership is ahead of the curve nationally. As the chair of the board of directors of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), I can attest to the commitment and ongoing efforts to identify opportunities for academic medical centers and academic health systems to lead efforts to address health equity – of which ours is a stellar example.

There is no single solution to addressing the issues that lead to disparities in health and health care, such as social and economic factors including: needed educational improvements, income and food and housing instability, community safety, and discrimination. Rather, it will take an ongoing commitment from every corner of the community to address these challenges successfully.

I am energized, however, that our community is taking this unique, creative and committed approach to forge an innovative partnership to take on these complex issues. As we continue to grow as a region, we need to commit long-term resources to effectively overcome challenges borne by health inequities in order to implement change and improve access to care for those who need it most.

Dr. Joseph Kerschner is provost and executive vice president of the Medical College of Wisconsin and dean of the School of Medicine at MCW. He was also recently named chairman of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

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