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UWEC professor works to develop narrative on health equity

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Doctor Pam Guthman, who is currently a clinical assistant professor at the UWEC nursing school, says social problems rooted in racism takes a toll on health.

The declaration, headed by the Population Health Institute in Madison, is part of a state initiative aimed at working from the ground-up to prevent illnesses.

Guthman said the online movement is a matter of informing and advocating that racial disparities such as housing, education and transportation, all play a role in preventing sickness.

For example, Guthman explained that a minority may have limited access to housing with clear ventilation, in turn putting their children at a higher risk for health problems later on, like asthma.

Guthman's work specifically focuses on the language surrounding racism.
She said that by having those difficult conversations about racial disparity, then society can begin the process toward filling these gaps.

"Racism in and of itself is just a difficult discussion to have…And people fumble with language," Guthman said. "We know that by going back to the county health rankings and looking at those determinants of health, we know there are inequities that are occurring in health. And as we disassemble the concept or the language of racism, we know that these conversations have to occur."

Guthman noted that change certainly will not happen overnight, but is confident that by creating a respectful dialogue and safe, healthy conditions for everyone in the community, that improvement will come.

Nearly 40 organizations across the state have already signed the online "Racism is a Public Health Crisis in Wisconsin" declaration.

That public health crisis declaration is a part of the Wisconsin Healthiest State Initiative, which works to advance health equity throughout the state.

McKenna Alexander

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