Archive for the ‘Projects that Work’ Category

Hello! My name is Eduardo Castro, and I was fortunate enough to be an intern at the IMPACT Planning Council this summer. As a recent graduate of Bowdoin College interested in entering the non-profit sector, IMPACT offered a great chance to learn about research and evaluation, and also see firsthand important work that is being done to improve the lives of Milwaukeeans.

Milwaukee Public Library staff runs a program in a Milwaukee County Park after a summer meal is served.

Milwaukee Public Library staff runs a program in a Milwaukee County Park after a summer meal is served.

I contributed to a number of projects for IMPACT. I worked to reorganize and revamp the IMPACT website. I created a database of every project IMPACT has conducted, complete with information about funders, keywords, and subjects. This database will allow projects, reports, and presentations to be easily searchable on the new website. In addition, I was able to accompany IMPACT staff during a focus group of youth care workers. My notes and analysis of the focus group will be used by the UWM School of Continuing Education to help tailor trainings for workers and organizations that cater to youth in Milwaukee.

The major project I worked on this summer was the Summer Reading Initiative. Studies have shown that children can lose up to two months worth of instructional time from the previous school year if they do not read over the summer. The loss in reading ability, known as the “Summer Slide,” disproportionately affects economically disadvantaged youth and poses serious consequences to the city of Milwaukee. However, one solution has consistently shown to stop the regression: children who read 6 or more books do not fall victim to the Summer Slide.

In an effort to combat the summer slide, IMPACT Planning Council alongside Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee Public Libraries, Hunger Task Force and others, have worked to put books into the hands of Milwaukee’s most vulnerable children. The Faye McBeath Foundation has funded over 26,000 books to be given away at free summer meal sites and awarded several “mini-grants” to local organizations to enhance their existing summer learning programming, and pilot new ideas to bring books to kids.

I supported the Summer Reading Initiative by providing assistance to my supervisor and Summer Reading Coordinator, Carrie Koss Vallejo. I managed mini-grant applications, mapped the reading programs sites in Milwaukee, and helped Carrie brainstorm possible outcome measurements for each organization based on their grant applications. I had the opportunity to conduct a site visit at the Burnham Park free summer meal location to see book distribution. My notes from the site visit were condensed into a report and will be presented to the funders of the Initiative.

Carrie also put me to work moving 40 lbs. boxes of books. Luckily for me (and my back), this was only a one-day affair.

My experience this summer with IMPACT has been incredibly rewarding. I have acquired practical skills that I will continue to use in my career, such as useful tips about using Excel and presenting data and findings. Particularly with my work on the Summer Reading Initiative, I witnessed how data and evaluation shape the implementation of a program. The entire staff has done a tremendous job in providing support and were committed to my experience at IMPACT. Overall, I gained a unique appreciation of the role of data and evaluation in the non-profit and public sector. I highly recommend people interested in research and evaluation to pursue an internship with IMPACT.

You will not be disappointed.


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At the Planning Council, we are busy preparing for our Data Visualization conference- coming up October 10th.

Our upcoming event inspired me to try visualizing some of the information collected in our Safety Net Clinic reports, using Tableau Public 8.0.

Safety Net Data VizEdit

The third edition of the reports, released in May 2013, was split into two documents; the 2013 Safety-Net Clinic- Planning Resource Guide and 2013 Safety-Net Clinic Referral Directory.  The utilization and geographic information on the viz is a small but interesting piece from the Planning Guide.

Thanks once again to the clinic staff and volunteers for their contribution to Milwaukee, and for sharing their data.
NOTE: Looking at this map data on Tableau enables you to highlight different clinic types in neat ways- to get to the interactive version click here.

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surveycover_bigAn ongoing survey of new mothers, collecting data on “maternal attitudes and experiences before, during and shortly after pregnancy” periodically releases information based on data collected. These surveys are done by the Pregnancy Risk Monitoring System (PRAMS). Wisconsin mothers began participating in PRAM in 2007.

One study shows high differences in postpartum depression between black and white mothers:

Many women feel depressed after bringing a new born home from the hospital. Research has shown that 8% to 15% of women can suffer from postpartum depression.

This is more than just the baby blues, if a mother is having feelings of depression for more than the first ten days after returning home this could be a sign of postpartum depression. Symptoms include feelings of sadness, overwhelmed, panic, anxiety, as well as problems eating or sleeping, problems focusing, and fear of harming self or the baby.

Creating a healthy environment for both mother and baby is important. Postpartum depression can affect all but survey results of Wisconsin mothers showed black mothers (26%) are twice as likely to have postpartum depression as compared to white mothers (11%).Hispanic mothers also have high rates of reporting symptoms at 18%.

For more information on postpartum depression and Wisconsin results take a look at PRAMS report.

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April 24, 2012. The room sparkled with decorations and conversations as more than 150 supporters anticipated the launch of the Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families (LIHF) Community Action Plan.  But when the lights dimmed and emcee James Causey of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asked everyone to direct their attention to three tables filled with votive candles at the front, everyone fell suddenly silent. 

The tables held one candle for each baby who had died prior to his or her first birthday in the city of Milwaukee between April 2011 and April 2012.  To the audience it was immediately evident that the smaller tables to the left and right each held far fewer candles than did the center table, which was quite large and packed to the very edge with lit votives.  Shawn Green, Co-Chair of the Milwaukee LIHF Collaborative, together with Clarene Mitchell, Steering Committee member, explained that the smaller tables represented all the Latino and White babies who had died, while the large middle table represented all the African American babies who had died.  The stillness in the room spoke volumes as the audience reflected for a minute on the visual evidence of the three-to-one disparity in birth outcomes that Milwaukee LIHF was formed to address. 

With the release of the Milwaukee LIHF Community Action Plan, more than two years of work on the part of the Planning Council came to an end.  But the end of planning is just the beginning of the next phase for this citywide initiative.  The plan calls for the elimination of racial disparities in infant mortality in Milwaukee by the year 2020. A variety of speakers at the April 24th event delineated the recommendations of the various task forces, raised the challenges ahead for the group, and issued a call to action for the entire community.  To read a recap of the entire event, click here.  To read the entire Community Action Plan, click here (the document is more than 200 pages long and may take a while to download).  To get involved, stay tuned!

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Milwaukee Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) has taken a lead in the community to expand the use of community health workers (CHW) to lessen health disparities inSoutheastern Wisconsin. The Planning Council for Health and Human Services was contracted to conduct research into the practices of other CHW programs to market CHWs to employers in order to increase employment opportunities. The following paragraphs will explain what a CHW is and outline five approaches to expand employer knowledge of CHWs and motivate them to include CHWs on their staff.

What is a Community Health Worker (CHW)?

Community health workers are members of communities who provide a bridge between the community and the public health system and usually share some combination of ethnicity, language, beliefs, sexual identities, socioeconomic status and life experiences with the community members they serve.

 They play an important role in:

  • Cultural mediation between communities and the healthcare system;
  • Providing culturally appropriate and accessible health education and information;
  • Assuring that people get the services they need (navigation and resource referral);
  • Providing informal counseling and social support;
  • Advocating for individuals and communities within the health and social service systems;
  • Translating/interpreting health information on an informal basis;
  • Providing direct, basic services and administering screening tests;
  • Community engagement and empowerment; and
  • Modeling healthy behaviors.

A qualified CHW must have:

  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Knowledge base about the community, health issues and available services
  • Service coordination skills
  • Capacity-building skills
  • Advocacy skills
  • Teaching skills
  • Organizational skill

Five Approaches to Increase Employment of CHWs

As part of the research on how employers are learning about CHWs and being moved to include CHWs in their workforce, the Planning Council designed and implemented a survey. The primary goal is to find out what it will take for an employer to act on hiring CHWs to perform appropriate duties to meet the mission of their organization.

The report suggests five approaches:

  1. Educate potential employers about:
    • Advantages of employing CHWs,
    • How to get the full benefit of CHWs’ unique capabilities,
    • Transitioning from project-based temporary work to full employment,
    • The role of CHWs in addressing priorities from community needs assessments,
    • How to recruit the right people into CHW positions, and
    • How to effectively supervise CHWs
  2. Develop and sustain a statewide registry or exchange for experienced CHWs to help make the connection with organizations who are hiring.
  3. Recruit trainers for CHW training events from potential employer agencies in order to introduce them to the role and training of CHWs.
  4. Explore and replicate mechanisms to identify good candidates in the community who have the “right stuff” to become effective CHWs. Formal CHW training can be a requisite after hiring.
  5. Advocate for reimbursement of CHW services through Medicaid.

The five approaches listed above have been used to various degrees in centers across the nation. The next steps for Milwaukee AHEC will be to analyze which strategies to employ in the southeast region, what resources and partners to engage and how to evaluate the impact to discern those that will bring the best return on investment moving forward. It is clear that the federal government and national health organizations’ spotlight is on CHWs. While the benefits of training and employing them to join the mission of reducing health disparities and healthcare spending is known to many, the success of the movement is dependent on employers understanding and acting on this knowledge.

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Tom Hlavacek from the Alzheimer’s Association presented to both the Planning Council Board and the Alumni Advisory Committee on our partnership in producing the “Handcuffed” report based on the work of the Challenging Behaviors Task Force. That report, and the Planning Council, are cited in a State Court of Appeals case finding that Chapter 51 is not appropriate for people with Alzheimer’s and that they can no longer be involuntarily committed for treatment. http://thewheelerreport.com/releases/April11/0427/0427d2appealsfdlvhelen.pdf

On the front page of today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://www.jsonline.com/features/health/120901259.html),  the court ruling is called “a decision that could transform the way nursing homes and law enforcement deal with vulnerable older adults who have dementia.”

Of course there is much work to be done, but I think we can all be proud of helping to make a needed system change. Thanks for supporting our mission!

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Nowadays, nearly everyone has an acquaintance, friend or loved one who is dealing with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia.  As the number of people affected by dementia has grown, so has our society’s understanding of how best to take care of individuals with the disease.  However, there is a subset of people with dementia, those who exhibit aggressive and agitated behaviors, who sometimes are not receiving appropriate care. People exhibiting these “challenging behaviors” can find themselves caught up in the legal and involuntary commitment systems, sometimes leading to tragic results.

The death of Mr. Richard Petersen in April 2010 in Milwaukee was one such tragedy. The report of his journey through emergency detention, two hospitals, and the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division, which eventually led to his unfortunate death despite the efforts of his family to intervene, was chronicled in the local newspaper.  His story caught the attention of the community and also of the local Alzheimer’s Association. With support from the Faye McBeath Foundation, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and the Helen Bader Foundation, a task force was brought together to see what could be done to stop cases like Mr. Petersen’s from happening again. 

The Planning Council worked with the Alzheimer’s Challenging Behaviors Task Force to develop a set of recommendations that cluster around the following key next steps:

  • Find alternatives to using Chapter 51 and the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex for people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
  • Establish a network of Alzheimer’s care centers
  • Provide adequate and appropriate training
  • Create an ongoing system for capturing data
  • Support the next steps and follow-up work of the Task Force

The full report of the Alzheimer’s Challenging Behaviors Task Force can be found at http://planningcouncil.org/PDF/Alzheimers_Report_Handcuffed_1-11.pdf

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