New partnership provides grants for maternal and child health care The Badger Herald


The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health announced $1.5 million in grants that will be awarded to partnerships addressing maternal and child health disparities between rural, urban, immigrant communities , Latin and Indigenous.

The funds will be distributed through SMPH’s Wisconsin Partnership Program, under the Maternal and Child Health Grants Division.

The WPP aims to promote health equity by targeting the social determinants of health, such as where people live, work, learn or worship. With this in mind, public health is taking a more community-focused approach to health and wellness, according to the WPP’s 2019-2024 Five-Year Plan.

An individual’s health is closely tied to social and economic factors, including employment, education and support systems, according to the Wisconsin Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System’s 2018-2019 monitoring report. These factors account for 40% of an individual’s health, according to PRAMS.

The WPP operates out of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. They place a strong emphasis on funding initiatives that ensure maternal and child health.

The awards will be used to advance existing community efforts to promote health equity through multidisciplinary channels. Grant recipients will work closely with local health organizations to maximize the benefits of the funding, according to the WPP grant announcement.

Roots4Change is one of 10 grant recipients statewide. Madison and Dane County Public Health (PHMDC) will work in tandem with Roots4Change to allocate funds appropriately.

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The Roots4Change Cooperative is a Madison-based organization that provides community wellness services focused on maternal and child health, according to Roots4Change. website. The cooperative works with state and local health departments, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and research centers on the UW campus.

WPP Program Advisor Renuka Mayadev said the need to invest in these populations is critical.

“Our greatest natural resource is our children,” Mayadev said.

According to the UW School of Medicine and Public Health website, the Roots4Change and PHMDC partnership will receive up to $150,000 over two years.

Like the WPP, Roots4Change and PHMDC take a multidisciplinary approach to public health. Roots4Change will use the grants to support its ongoing efforts, which include perinatal doula services, labor and breastfeeding support, postpartum care and community worker training, Mayadev said.

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According to Mayadev, investing in community projects and partnerships is the way to create change at the level that matters.

“That relationship of trust is really important,” Mayadev said. “It has been proven and studied.”

PHMDC and Roots4Change have maintained a partnership since the creation of the cooperative.

Roots4Change manager Mariela Quesada Centeno said PHMDC has the data, resources and reach to spread its message to Latinx communities.

The grant comes at a critical time for these communities, Centeno said.

“The health of unborn people and pregnant women could be a thermometer of the functioning of the health system,” Centeno said. “[The data shows that] Wisconsin is really sick.

According to Mayadev, the infant mortality rate for Spanish-speaking children has doubled since 2015. Sarah Hughes, PHMDC Immunization Coordinator and Roots4Change Liaison, confirmed this trend.

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Maternal and infant mortality, perinatal depression, mental health issues, and home instability are all on the rise within the Latinx community, according to Hughes.

Demand for public health services from members of the Spanish-speaking community has increased amid rising maternal and child health challenges, Hughes said.

Statistical trends in Wisconsin and Dane County are raising awareness of the growing challenges faced by Latino and immigrant populations. But these issues aren’t new, Centeno said.

“We know that when things show up in the data, it means we’re already too late,” Hughes said. “Each piece of data is a life and a human and a story and a family and it all has meaning.”

In addition to rising mortality rates and poor maternal health outcomes, Centeno pointed out that Latinx patients are routinely exposed to differential and inappropriate treatment in clinics and hospitals.

Sixteen percent of Hispanic people who have given birth report experiencing interpersonal racism in the year before labor, according to the Wisconsin PRAMS report. Racial discrimination can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of children being born with low birth weight.

Centeno said the diverse people who make up Dane County’s Latinx community lack a strong system of health care providers equipped with the cultural and linguistic tools necessary to serve these populations. Having given birth herself, Centeno can relate to the struggles this community faces.

“The nurses were great, but no one spoke Spanish,” Centeno said. “I felt really alone.”

Roots4Change strives to address these systemic barriers by increasing resources for the mother community of Latina, immigrant and native families.

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The WPP grants will specifically fund a project called Jardin de Espacios, or Garden of Spaces. Roots4Change is a “third space,” a sacred and welcoming space designed to help Latino and immigrant communities put down roots, according to Centeno.

“We are like onions, and we were transplanted into a land that only grows corn,” Centeno said. “For Roots, our work is not work. It’s a commitment, and it’s a passion covered in pain.

Mayadev said former recipients of WPP grants, such as Harambee Village Doulaswhich received funding in 2018continue to make incredible contributions to their communities.

“The strength of our communities and our vibrancy depends a lot on the health of our mothers, birth attendants and children,” Mayadev said.


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