Public Health Collaborative Impact Continues, Shifting from COVID to Emerging Public Health Issues

At the onset of the pandemic (March 2020), Milwaukee County’s 11 municipal health departments, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), business leaders, community-based organizations, and health care members of Milwaukee Health Care Partnership (MHCP) came together to launch a Unified Emergency Operations Center (UEOC) as a vehicle to coordinate COVID prevention and response efforts. That temporary collaborating structure planted the seeds for a new level of communication and cooperation among public health and health care organizations in the Milwaukee community.

The Public Health Collaborative for Milwaukee County (PHC) is an outgrowth of that successful collective impact movement. The new, reconfigured PHC was recommissioned in January 2023 to sustain collaborative efforts among the 11 municipal health departments in the county, the infrastructure of County Government including the Office of the County Executive, the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), and the health care members of the MHCP. As the Public Health Emergency ends and COVID recovery efforts are underway, the PHC is committed to continued collaboration, focusing on select health issues that require a coordinated response, including communicable disease prevention, broader child and adult immunization efforts, and substance misuse, in addition to COVID recovery. 

“Milwaukee County government departments, including DHHS and OEM, play an important role in community health promotion and disease prevention, as well as response and recovery,” said Dr. Ben Weston, Milwaukee County Chief Health Policy Advisor, Director of Medical Services for OEM, and Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. “Milwaukee County has advanced a vision to become the healthiest county in Wisconsin. That can be best achieved when all local health departments, health care organizations, and county government agencies work together around shared goals and activities informed by data.”

PHC 2023 objectives include relationship building, elevating and amplifying accurate information and education, aligning policy and advocacy, coordinating strategies on shared priorities that prioritize inclusion and racial equity, and advancing recommendations to improve efficiencies and effectiveness of public health.

“Since its inception, MHCP has been structured as a “health care” collaborative focused on the availability, accessibility, and acceptability of primary, specialty, mental health, and oral health care.  Health care providers can play an important role in addressing community and public health in collaboration with government agencies.  The PHC allows health care providers to participate in community health initiatives within the scope of their work. Our members are pleased to see this parallel “public health” collaborative be sustained and grow in influence and impact,” noted Joy Tapper, Executive Director of MHCP.

Katie Lepak, MS, serves as the PHC Project Officer. PHC management is collectively funded by the eleven municipal health departments, Milwaukee County government, and the MHCP health systems Shared Community Investment Fund.

“The PHC’s work together during the pandemic demonstrated the value of cross-sector collaboration within and across public health,” said Katie Lepak, Project Officer for the PHC. “Public health has been informally working together for many years, but the formalization of this forum and its collaboration with cross-sector partners provides the structure needed to move the needle together on community health issues we all face across municipalities and sectors.”