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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 28, 2024 


Milwaukee Health Department Streamlines Well Woman Program for Better Access

MILWAUKEE – In its ongoing commitment to serve the community, the City of Milwaukee Health Department (MHD) is evolving its Milwaukee Breast and Cervical Cancer Awareness Program (MBCCAP), which is a provider and coordinator of the Wisconsin Well Woman Program (WWWP). As such, MHD is discontinuing mammograms, pap smears, and clinical breast exams at the Southside Health Center (SSHC) and opting for a more streamlined approach to care coordination in healthcare systems.

WWWP provides crucial preventive health screenings for low-income persons who are uninsured or underinsured. This state-run program covers the costs of mammograms, Pap tests, and multiple sclerosis testing. Administered by the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services Division of Public Health, the program is accessible in all 72 Wisconsin Counties and 11 tribes, including MHD. MBCCAP’s mission is to address health equity by reducing breast and cervical cancer mortality rates in Milwaukee residents through education, outreach, screening, treatment, and community involvement.

In October, the organization providing radiologists to read MHD’s mammograms terminated its contract due to logistical and staffing challenges, compounded by the nationwide shortage of radiologists. In the interim, MHD sought a new contract with a different organization but was declined for similar reasons in January.

Simultaneously, MHD conducted an internal assessment of the overall benefit of on-site mammograms and pap smears. The assessment revealed a low number of WWWP enrollees receiving these services at SSHC annually, with the majority coordinated through MHD for services at local healthcare systems. The assessment also brought attention to the outdated nature of MHD’s mammography machine compared to larger institutions. As a result, MHD decided to cease on-site mammograms and pap smears, opting to coordinate these free services for WWWP clients with local healthcare systems.

This decision, guided by a community health lens, allows MHD to focus on coordinating services for underinsured or uninsured residents. Weekly clinics offering free mammograms directly to WWWP clients proved resource-intensive for MHD, particularly in staffing. Shifting this responsibility enables MHD to concentrate on health equity, through education, outreach, and enrolling residents into the program. MHD can coordinate services with larger, better-equipped health institutions, where individuals can establish personalized access—a crucial aspect recognized as a social determinant of health. Enrolled WWWP clients will continue to receive free services at any of the WWWP provider sites. Since implementing this shift, MHD has observed an increase in enrolled clients and services provided through the program.

“The decision to shift services in the Wisconsin Well Woman Program to ensure our city’s residents receive more comprehensive, free care came quicker than anticipated,” said Commissioner of Health Mike Totoraitis, Ph.D. “MHD leadership has been in the process of meeting with stakeholders, including the Common Council, Board of Health, and others.”

For more details on MHD’s WWWP, visit milwaukee.gov/wellwoman. Additional information on the state-run WWWP is available at dhs.wisconsin.gov/wwwp.



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