Reducing health disparities in Milwaukee’s Muslim refugee community

UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Wisconsin invests in programs and initiatives that improve individual and community health by addressing barriers that negatively impact health and wellbeing. Refugees, particularly those recently resettled in the United States, are often disproportionally affected by economic, social and other obstacles to health care. A new collaboration with the Muslim Community and Health Center of Wisconsin (MCHC) will focus on reducing these health disparities for refugees and seniors in Milwaukee.

MCHC is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Look-Alike organization whose mission is to strengthen and increase the wellbeing of Milwaukee residents by providing free and charitable health care services, social services, counseling, emergency assistance, educational and job-training programs. As part of this mission, the center provides essential health services, including medical care, screenings, and health education, to refugees and seniors.

Financial support from UHC will provide the center with an opportunity to organize focus groups and collect data that can be used to improve health care delivery for the refugee community in Milwaukee. In addition, the funding will be used to support programming at the Sakina Senior Center, including educational fields visits that are focused on improving health, wellness and quality of life.  

Using focus group insights to improve health equity

The focus groups will start with 20 patients from different refugee populations, who will provide insight into their respective health and social wellness needs. Group facilitators will also ask about differences in disease and health care outcomes. This information will guide our work and that of providers and staff at MCHC as we focus on the most pressing needs for health services and outreach in the community and determine how to best close care gaps.

Refugee health is strongly related to social determinants of health, such as employment, income, housing and access to mainstream health services.1 Because MCHC demonstrates an understanding of the challenges, culture and community of the clients they serve, there is a higher level of trust in health services offered at the center. Focus group findings will be used to inform care that is sensitive and responsive to the needs of the refugee communities. The goal is for more people in the refugee community to hear about the health services offered at MCHC, through peer sharing of information, and to then access that care.

Creating a healthier community for all

An individual’s culture, race, religion, language, education, and income level should not be barriers to receiving quality health care. UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Wisconsin is committed to identifying and addressing key social barriers to health with a goal of improving the health and well-being of the communities they serve. Collaborating with community organizations like MCHC allows us to better fulfill our mission of helping people live healthier lives.

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