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WCHQ Report Sheds Light on Health Disparities

September 18, 2019

WCHQ shares data to help inform, drive and measure progress of community-wide programs aimed at achieving health equity

A landmark report released today by the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality (WCHQ) will provide important data to inform and accelerate the work statewide aimed at eliminating health disparities.

The “WCHQ Health Disparities Report” identifies where gaps in health outcomes and care exist in Wisconsin. The data is categorized based on race/ethnicity, payer and rural/urban geography.  The data was submitted to WCHQ by 25 health systems and medical clinics and it represents the most complete and recent (2018) data available for this work.

“WCHQ has developed the data infrastructure that is necessary to create and support interventions and programs that will reduce health disparities,” according to report co-author Matt Gigot, WCHQ director of performance measurement and analysis. “This information makes it possible to benchmark current performance and measure progress over time. Reliable data that is collected in a standardized and consistent way is essential when the goal is improving performance.”

The report found that some people in Wisconsin are experiencing a wide range of substantial disparities across several measures. Substantial was defined as 10 percent lower than the best performing group.

  • Blacks are experiencing substantial disparities for childhood vaccinations, maintaining recommended weight, blood pressure control and not using tobacco if they have diabetes or health disease;
  • All the groups included in the report, except Asian which had the best rate, were not at the recommended weight;
  • There were substantial disparities in the American Indian population in childhood vaccinations, breast cancer screening and tobacco use related to diabetes and heart disease;
  • Whites had the lowest rate of HPV vaccination;
  • Hispanic/Latinos were substantially lower than other groups in controlling their blood sugar if they were diabetic; and,
  • Asians have lower screening rates for both colorectal and breast cancer.

“The wide variation in how people are experiencing health outcomes and care is influenced by many factors. For some populations, a targeted approach can be taken to mitigate one or two areas where the group is experiencing disparities,” according to the report’s co-author Maureen Smith, MD, MPH, PhD, Professor, Departments of Population Health Sciences and Family Medicine & Community Health at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “If we want to close the gaps in health outcomes and care for people who are experiencing multiple disparities, it will require a community-wide response from multiple stakeholders who can address issues such as poverty, housing, food insecurity and a number of other factors that have an impact on overall health.”

Disparities were also related to payers or insurers, categorized in the report as commercial, Medicare, Medicaid and uninsured. People who are uninsured or who have Medicaid coverage experienced similar and substantial disparities in nearly every measure compared to those with commercial or Medicare coverage.  

While the data can be used to calculate a statewide average, WCHQ President/CEO Chris Queram said the goal is not to achieve a benchmark.

“The report builds awareness of and quantifies the gaps we have in achieving health equity. The goal is not to achieve average performance – the goal is to eliminate disparities in our state,” said Chris Queram. “Working with community partners, our health systems are committed to finding solutions that will raise the health status of every person living in Wisconsin.”

WCHQ has been collecting data from their members, sharing results and publicly reporting progress on specific measures of health quality for 15 years. Queram said Wisconsin health care organizations have consistently shown that what is measured, can be improved.  

“Health equity is a community strength and an economic development asset. People want to live and work in areas where everyone has an equal opportunity to be healthy,” Queram said. “This report will help us get a step closer to that goal.”

The WCHQ Health Disparities Report was developed in collaboration between WCHQ and the University of Wisconsin Health Innovation Program (HIP). Funding for the project was provided by the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH), which is committed to improving the health of Wisconsin residents and reducing health disparities through research, education and community partnerships.

“The Wisconsin Partnership Program recognizes that the most effective way to eliminate health disparities in our state is through collaboration among many partners and organizations,” according to Richard Moss, PhD, SMPH Senior Associate Dean. “This report provides a unique set of data that has not been gathered before. It’s a collaborative call to action and a resource that can be used by community partners to catalyze efforts to reduce health disparities.”

Contact: Mary Kay Fahey – mkfahey@wchq.org

The Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality collects and publicly reports health system clinical performance information that is used to improve the quality and affordability of care, which improves the health of individuals living in Wisconsin’s communities.

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