Ascension Wisconsin identifies its top health priorities in Milwaukee

May 30, 2019

Over the last year, Ascension Wisconsin has been listening to local stakeholders through interviews with patients, individuals, community organizations, a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and community conversations. During this process, Ascension Wisconsin conducted:

• 161 community interviews
• 27 community stakeholder meetings
• 7 community conversations with elected officials and residents

Ascension Wisconsin held a series of community conversations in Milwaukee at Ascension St. Joseph and Ascension St. Francis for an interactive discussion with residents on how to make their community healthier. Participants were asked, “What do we need to work on together to improve the health of our community?” Interactive, small group discussions were asked these follow-up questions:

• What does a healthy community look like?
• To create a healthy community, what needs to change?
• What would you expect to see in the next year to show Ascension Wisconsin is heading in the right direction?

After each question, the table host for each group reported a summary of their group’s conversation. Detailed notes were taken and compiled into a summary document. In addition, a graphic artist captured the conversation visually, creating a mural that told a story representing the ideas shared in the report-out. Community members were given the opportunity to identify their top three priorities by voting on the mural with stickers. These conversations, along with the CHNA, have helped guide Ascension Wisconsin to identify its top health priorities in Milwaukee.

Q. What is a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA)?
A. CHNA is a requirement under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for not-for-profit hospitals to assess and address the significant health needs of the community they serve every three years. In Milwaukee County, health systems collect this data together through the Milwaukee Health Care Partnership, identifying top health needs in the community. Individual health systems then determine priorities to be addressed by their system based on this shared assessment. Ascension Wisconsin’s CHNA report will be posted at by June 30, 2019.

Q. What are the top health priorities for Ascension Wisconsin hospitals in Milwaukee?
A. The top health priorities for Ascension St. Joseph, Ascension St. Francis and Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Milwaukee are:
• Access to Care
• Chronic Disease Prevention
• Infant Mortality
• Mental Health

Q. Why were just these four priorities chosen?
A. During the assessment process, Ascension Wisconsin considered many factors, some of which are:
• The size and urgency of the problem
• Needs of residents who experience health disparities
• Does Ascension Wisconsin have the expertise and resources needed to make an impact.

Many other important health issues were noted, both in the review of the data and in the input from the community. While the CHNA process identified four top priorities to focus on, this is not the only avenue by which Ascension Wisconsin addresses the health of the community. Ascension Wisconsin will continue to address a wide array of health issues and needs through hospital-based care, primary and specialty clinics and other community initiatives.

Q. What’s next?
A. Ascension Wisconsin will develop an action plan for addressing these priority health needs, called a Community Health Implementation Plan (CHIP). During the spring and summer 2019, Ascension Wisconsin will be creating a CHIP to outline specific programs/initiatives that address these four priority health issues for its Milwaukee hospitals. Ascension Wisconsin’s plan is expected to be ready to share by the end of summer.

Q. Are the efforts in the CHIP part of Ascension Wisconsin’s community benefit?
A. Yes. The CHIP will include programs, services and initiatives that will address the priorities identified in the CHNA. Funding to support these efforts is one part of Ascension Wisconsin’s commitment to community benefit. In addition to what is provided through the CHIP, community benefit also includes financial assistance, covering the cost of uncompensated care and supporting programs and activities that provide education, treatment and promote health and healing.

Q. Beyond the CHIP, what is next at Ascension St. Joseph?
A. Reggie Newson, Chief Advocacy Officer, Ascension Wisconsin provided this update:

“We are grateful to the community and thank everyone who shared their opinions and ideas on how to make Milwaukee healthier.

“Healthcare is changing and the needs of the people we serve are changing too. Ascension St. Joseph is an anchor in the community and is ready to lead the changes required to better meet those needs. As we’ve been listening over the last several months, the community clearly expressed the need for traditional healthcare services along with more access to programs that address health and wellness differently.

“Ascension St. Joseph is looking at ways to combine traditional medical services with related social services that will result in healthier people and healthier neighborhoods We are looking at how to accomplish this through collaboration, strategic alliances or partnerships. In the coming weeks, we look forward to sharing with the community our ideas for improving health equity in the Ascension St. Joseph service area.”

Anyone interested in sharing ideas or wishing to receive more information may contact