Legislators and aides discuss Wisconsinites’ health with La Follette School, UW–Madison faculty

What do broadband access, green spaces, and stable housing have in common? They all influence a person’s health. Together, they have a greater impact on health than medical care or health behaviors such as going to the gym.

The La Follette School convened legislators and staff to discuss how these social, economic, and physical environment factors—often called social determinants of health—affect Wisconsin families’ health. The discussions were part of the Continuing the Conversation series held after each Wisconsin Family Impact Seminar.

The first discussion, held February 17 with nine legislators and 16 legislative aides, focused on the health impacts of broadband access, employment, parks, and lead water pipes. The discussion was led by three UW–Madison faculty members: Tessa Conroy, assistant professor of agricultural and applied economics and Extension economic development specialist, Samuel Dennis, professor of landscape architecture, and Geoffrey Swain, professor emeritus of family medicine and community health.

On March 24, eight legislators and 15 aides participated in a discussion about income support policies, safe and stable housing, and the impact of early life stress on later health. They also discussed the underlying reasons for racial health disparities. La Follette School faculty member Sarah Halpern-Meekin, who also is an associate professor of human development and family studies, was joined by Marah Curtis, professor of social work, and Tiffany Green, assistant professor of population health sciences and obstetrics and gynecology.

“One of the great benefits of Continuing the Conversation is the relationships that develop between legislators and UW–Madison faculty,” said Bonnie MacRitchie, La Follette School senior public affairs outreach specialist. “Legislators get their questions answered in real time by experts they come to know and trust, and they can reach out to faculty about related topics in the future.”

Continuing the Conversation brings together legislators and staff in a neutral, nonpartisan setting to discuss the Family Impact Seminar topic and find common ground on policy solutions. The takeaway document from each discussion as well as a video and other materials from this year’s Family Impact Seminar are online at www.wisfamilyimpact.org/FIS39.