Jeramey Jannene

Bucks, Froedtert Plan Massive Health Equity Initiative

20-year, up-to-$100 million effort aims to be a data-driven eliminator of health disparities.

By - Mar 13th, 2023 04:06 pm
Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Bucks.

A new partnership between Milwaukee Bucks, Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin aims to make lasting, systematic change in the health of Milwaukeeans.

Described as a multi-decade investment, the partners are launching The D.E.E.R. Accelerator (Driving Equity Empowerment and Resources). Bucks President Peter Feigin believes it could eventually be a $50 million to $100 million initiative.

“This is not about health care solely, this is not about education,” said Feigin in presenting the accelerator to the Rotary Club of Milwaukee on March 7. “This is about how can we affect change in 90,000 residents in the city of Milwaukee.”

Feigin said the partners would be focused on improving factors such as life expectancy, housing, education, income, crime and poverty rates in areas of the city where the greatest discrepancies exist.

Froedtert Hospital President Eric Conley highlighted the 12-year life expectancy gap between the 52317 ZIP code (Whitefish Bay) and the 53206 ZIP code in Milwaukee.

“We need to close that gap,” said Conley. “When we get that down and there is no gap, then we are all better.”

The initiative is initially focusing on the Silver Spring, Halyard Park, Washington Park, Muskego Way and Walker Square neighborhoods “largely because we have existing partnerships in those communities with anchor institutions,” said Conley. He cited the ThriveOn King partnership, United Community Center, Silver Spring Neighborhood Center and United Methodist Children’s Services. “This is about the entire community, but it is those areas that we can go to because the communities trust those organizations.”

“One of the big motivators here is these organizations do things right,” said Feigin. He said they made logical partners where D.E.E.R. could deploy resources to accelerate growth.

Conley said it wasn’t just about raising money, but doing things right, “partnering and collaborating.” Both partners emphasized a desire to measure outcomes and adjust course when things weren’t working.

“This is not a one-time, one-year coordinated hit. This is a core group that is dedicated to affect change over a 10-year period of time,” said Feigin. A public launch is expected this spring. “We raised $5.5 million without saying a word.”

Conley cited New York-based Bucks owner Jamie Dinan and retired Fiserv CEO Jeffery Yabuki as key contributors in the initiative.

Feigin said the program would eventually be a $50 million to $100 million effort. “This is what we have been quietly working on for a couple years,” he said. Feigin said federal grants would be pursued. “We are going to resource this for long-term thinking, for long-term return.”

A slide presented by the partners listed BMO Harris Bank, American Family Insurance, GE Healthcare, Northwestern Mutual, Johnson Controls, the Greater Milwaukee Committee, Kohl’s, Fiserv, Palermo’s, Mortenson Construction, the NBA Foundation, Advocate Aurora Health, the Milwaukee Police Department, Milwaukee County Sheriff‘s Office, City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County as partners.

“It takes a village. That’s what we’re looking for,” said Conley. He said the partners are looking at the initiative as two 10-year terms.

The initiative is being led by Wendell Willis, the former head of the Milwaukee Public Schools Foundation. Willis, said Conley, is responsible for linking the needs and desires of the communities with the accelerator. “If you understand what the community needs you have buy-in from the community,” said Conley. “Sometimes it’s dollars, sometimes it’s services.”

Feigin and Conley both spoke about making the initiative a national model that would be replicated elsewhere.

“How wonderful would it be… to do this in Charlotte, to do this in Chicago, to do in other NBA cities with their health care partners,” said Conley.

“We are very excited about making Milwaukee the model of how we can affect change and improve the lives of tens of thousands of people in the next decade,” said Feigin.

Feigin said the Bucks and Froedtert were motivated to launch the partnership after looking at the 20-year partnership the two organizations have had.

“We think in the last 20 years, there has been limited change,” said Feigin

“We said ‘let’s do something different,'” said Conley.

“We basically said we’re going to take a world-championship, global team, that has an incredible platform, great media outlet, unbelievable access to wealth and resources, take the greatest hospital system in our area, form a partnership and really go from the inside out,” said Feigin.

Froedtert is the official health care partner of the Bucks. The Bucks now practice at the Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center and the health care provider operates the attached McKinley Health Center.

“The awakening was sitting with several community groups in circles and hearing about the little things that can affect so much change,” said Feigin, citing as examples poor lighting and cars driving on sidewalks. “We can get some lights working in some neighborhoods. We can change traffic patterns in a big way. There are great community centers that people are scared sh*tless to walk to after dark. That’s a big problem.”

“It’s a lot of common sense,” said Conley. “It’s listening. It’s the small things that begin to add up to major, bold change.”

Categories: Health, Weekly

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