Disrupting Disparities: Transforming
Organizing for Health
Dane County and the state to identify barriers and generate solutions that not only improve, but also
transform Black women’s health and birth outcomes. The effort also aims to connect Black women,
health systems, and community partners across sectors to create solutions that systemically
improve the health and quality of life of Black women and families in a state that leads the nation in
health, education, and wealth disparities for African Americans — and that hails the highest infant
mortality rate among the 50 states.
“Our commitment is to do our part to change these outcomes and to bring our collective brain trust
and resources together to move Wisconsin from the worst to the best for Black women’s health,”
said Peyton-Caire. “And we know that any successful and sustainable solutions must be informed
first by Black women who are closest and most impacted by the issue, then supported by partners
who can help drive the solutions we need.”
With the support of partners including UW Health, UW Carbone Cancer Center, Public Health Madison
& Dane County and the Wisconsin Well Woman Program, the Foundation convened local Black
women leaders working in health and related fields to consider the current status of Black women’s
health in Dane County and Wisconsin as a springboard for solutions and collective action. Attendees
from Dane County and Milwaukee represented the medical and public health arenas, mental health,
By Jonathan Gramling
When Lisa Peyton-Caire calls for action, women listen,
specifically, Black women in and beyond the Greater Madison. On
Saturday, January 20th, the same day that women across the
country celebrated the anniversary of the Women’s March, by
marching again, 40 Black women came together in a room at
Wingra Family Clinic on S. Park Street to chart a course to
transform Black women’s health in Wisconsin.
The gathering marked the launch of the Disrupting Disparities:
Transforming Black Women’s Health in Wisconsin campaign that
the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness will lead in 2018.
Through a series of focus groups and public engagement
sessions, the Foundation will bring together Black women across
maternal and child health, midwives and doulas, state health program administrators, health researchers, wellness practitioners,
neighborhood advocates, non-profit leaders and business owners.
Kicking off the meeting, Peyton-Caire reminded those present of the work and impact of the Foundation since its founding in 2012. The
organization has elevated the issue of Black women’s health in the community’s conscience, and mobilized women to elevate their health and
create the conditions they need to thrive in a state that leads the nation in health, education, and wealth disparities for Black women and
communities. The Foundation reaches 1,000 women and girls each year through health promotion and education outreach including its
workshops, wellness events, SisterCircles, and its signature annual event, Black Women’s Wellness Day which now draws nearly 600
women and community partners to Madison each September from across the county, state and Midwest region. Evidence of the organization’s
success can be seen in the number of women who are dramatically changing their lives, improving their health, advocating for change,
assuming positions of leadership, and launching their own efforts to bolster Black women’s well-being.
Other guest presenters for the day included Lola Awoyinka, an epidemiologist with the State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services; Gina
Green Harris of the UW School of Medicine & Public Health and Director of the Life Course Initiative for Healthy Families; Hershey Barnett
Bridges, retired public health nurse and co-founder of the African American Breastfeeding Alliance of Dane County, and Carola Gaines of UW
Health-Quartz who co-organized the event and a panel on Maternal and Infant Health: History, Status and Issues.
The Disrupting Disparities campaign is one of several priorities the Foundation will undertake in 2018 among a broad set of initiatives. The
organization will grow its existing education and outreach programs, launch a Wellness Ambassador corps, and bolster its capacity to drive
and influence broad systemic change. For more information or to get involved, visit the Foundation’s web site at www.ffbww.org.