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Commissioner Kowalik calls on better policies at Latino Health Summit

Thursday, April 11, 2019  
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Policy interventions could improve Latino health in Wisconsin

Panelists weighed in on policy interventions to help improve the health of Milwaukee and Wisconsin's Latino community at a Tuesday summit hosted by Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers.

Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik said segregation and housing, as well as racism, affect health outcomes. She noted that childhood lead poisoning affects some Milwaukee neighborhoods more than others, including on the city’s south side.

She also said there’s been a recent and significant decline in Latinos using home visiting and nutrition programs in the city.

“We do speculate that this is related to some of the climate that we’re dealing with, where there’s this anti-refugee, (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), all of this, where people are fearful of coming in to get services,” she said. “This is something that we need to continue to fight and address, that we are providing services to everybody who needs services.”

Kowalik said they need to involve more Latino leaders in the decision-making process health officials use. Investing in affordable and safe housing is also critical, she said.

Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm called on audience members to support the agency’s budget proposal, including its proposed BadgerCare expansion, an idea long opposed by Republican lawmakers.

She called expansion the “single most important thing we can do to improve the health of the Latino community.”

Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, also called for expanding BadgerCare.

“Politics and policy are imperative,” she said. “Wisconsinites deserve that healthcare access.”

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