State Senator: Wisconsin's Health Problems Both Urban, Rural
MADISON, Wis. – While poverty and poor health are factors in both rural and urban Wisconsin, the most recent figures show Milwaukee's poverty rate is 29 percent.
State Sen. Lena Taylor, a Milwaukee Democrat, says 23,000 Milwaukeeans live in food deserts, inner city neighborhoods with few fresh food providers or dining options other than fast food and convenience stores.
This, Taylor says, leads to massive health problems. But she's quick to add those issues aren't unique to Milwaukee by any means.
"The issues that are in the urban center of Milwaukee are some of the same issues that exist in our rural centers in Wisconsin,” she points out. “Milwaukee used to be one of the healthiest cities in the country back in the 30s and 40s, and it was argued that we were all healthier."
Taylor says the disparities in availability of nutritious food and access to health care are based largely on socioeconomic factors.
As she puts it, "Your zip code shouldn't determine your health."
Taylor has introduced Senate Joint Resolution 23, to make April Health and Wellness Month in Wisconsin. It has passed in the Senate and is working its way through the House.
Taylor says diabetes and food deserts aren't the only health problems around the state, citing concerns about lead poisoning in many Wisconsin communities.
"Lead is an issue that has no geographic boundaries, no race boundaries, no income boundaries, although I will say that most people who have probably been affected on the lead issue have also been individuals who have been in areas that have been under served," she stresses.
Taylor says one purpose of her resolution is to encourage Wisconsin communities to work collaboratively to solve common problems, which is one reason she thinks it has been well received.
"I would think that most individuals are supportive of it,” she states. “It really is a bipartisan type of issue, and honestly when the rural and urban legislators come together, we're the cure for whatever is ailing us."