Seminar connects researchers, legislators on improving the health of families


The La Follette School’s 2021 legislative outreach efforts kicked off Wednesday, January 13 with the 39th Wisconsin Family Impact Seminar. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the seminar was the first in the program’s decades-long history presented in a virtual format.

The seminar, Beyond Healthcare Policy: Building the Foundation of Health for Wisconsin Families, provided legislators and other participants with a greater understanding of where to invest limited resources to improve the health of Wisconsin families. More than 200 people participated in the seminar, which is archived on the Family Impact Seminars website.

“Healthy families are the cornerstone for thriving communities and a strong economy,” said Legislative Outreach Director Heidi Normandin (MA ’98). “At the request of our bipartisan advisory board, we brought together three experts whose research offers evidence-based insights into policies and programs that have the greatest potential for improving state residents’ health.

Compared to other states, Wisconsin earned a grade of “B-“ for overall health and a “D” for gaps between the healthiest and least healthy people, and the state’s racial health gaps are among the highest in the country. Poor health not only negatively affects a family’s quality of life and financial security, it limits Wisconsin’s economic growth.

Dr. Patrick Remington, professor emeritus of population health sciences at UW–Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health, Arjumand Siddiqi, professor of public health and health equity at the University of Toronto, and Dr. Peter Muennig, professor of health policy and management at Columbia University presented their research. They

  • unpacked how social and economic conditions can harm a person’s health,
  • discussed why racial health disparities are so prevalent and persistent, and
  • presented research-based policy options—such as income support and early childhood education programs—that can improve social and economic conditions in the state.

The Family Impact Seminars’ primary goals are to promote a greater use of research evidence in policy decisions and encourage policymakers to view issues through a family impact lens. Seminar topics are selected by a bipartisan advisory board of 12 legislators and one staff member from the governor’s office.

On Friday, January 15, the La Follette School also hosted a follow-up discussion for legislators and staff to ask questions of the three researchers, who gave brief summaries of their presentations.