Health Policy Forum Recap

The La Follette School welcomed more than 300 people to its inaugural La Follette Forum, funded by the Kohl Initiative, on Monday, March 2.

The daylong conference on critical health policy topics drew participants from across Wisconsin. Policymakers, practitioners, community leaders, and researchers engaged in conversation about innovative solutions for improving the health of Wisconsin residents.

“This health policy forum clearly demonstrated the La Follette School’s role as a convener on critical policy topics, which seems more relevant than ever as we navigate the current global health crisis,” said Director and Professor Susan Webb Yackee. “And it addressed every aspect of the Kohl Initiative’s priorities: expanding our public outreach mission, training future public leaders, and supporting influential research by faculty and students. Thank you, Senator Kohl.”

Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, gave the opening keynote address, while Mia Keeys, director of health equity policy and advocacy for the American Medical Association, gave the closing address.

Participants included former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, who introduced Altman, and Linda Vakunta, deputy mayor of Madison, who introduced Keeys. Three state legislators – Rep. Debra Kolste and Sens. Dale Kooyenga and Jeff Smith – also participated on panel discussions.

Several other state legislators and legislative staff members also attended along with representatives from 20 local government agencies, five state agencies, two legislative service agencies, and Congressman Mark Pocan’s office.

One elected official was especially pleased with the rural health discussion, noting that “the panelists were all from Wisconsin and had interesting perspectives on how to improve healthcare access in rural Wisconsin.”

In addition to the keynote addresses, moderated panel discussions focused on:

  • Healthcare Coverage and Access: Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, and Patient Awareness
  • Caring for an Aging Population: Quality, Workforce, and the Patient Experience
  • Consumer-Driven Healthcare: Impacts and Engaging Patients and Families
  • Personalized Medicine: Innovation, Implications, and Access
  • Societal Determinants of Health: New Models of Partnerships in Housing
  • Strategies for Rural Communities: Collaborations to Strengthen Health

Each panel discussion included a policymaker, a researcher, a community member, and a moderator with expertise in the specific topic. The sessions on healthcare coverage and access and on housing-related health policy drew the most participants.

“(I) very much appreciated the diverse perspectives and the intentional social/ethnic diversity of speakers and moderators,” said one local/tribal agency representative who participated in the conference.

A participant from a community-based nonprofit organization also said, “(in) every conversation, I was presented with a new idea or approach.”

Yackee said the health policy forum has set a high bar for the 2021 La Follette Forum, which will focus on climate policy.

“The Forum surpassed our wildest dreams in terms of quantity and quality of participants, content, and connections,” she said. “We are so grateful to everyone who helped make our inaugural forum memorable and thoughtful.”