Our goal is for everyone in Madison & Dane County to have access to appropriate and affordable health care so health outcomes are not determined by race, class, gender, income or other group status.

We work to ensure this through three main strategies:


Improving Access to Oral Health Care

Boy at dentistWhy it Matters

Despite the critical role that oral health plays in our overall quality of life, many people in Madison and Dane County can't access, or can't afford, dental care.

  • Getting preventative oral health care costs much less than getting crisis or restorative treatment.
  • Good dental care starting at a young age means better oral health across one's lifespan. 
  • For children, untreated dental disease can cause problems, with eating, speaking and the ability to learn.

What the Data Shows

  • Only a small percent of Dane County dental providers accept BadgerCare insurance, so many individuals go without dental care.
  • The burden of oral diseases and conditions is disproportionately borne by individuals with low socioeconomic status at each life stage and those who are vulnerable because of poor general health.
  • The rates for those visiting the hospital emergency department for dental pain continue to be much higher for Blacks than for other racial groups.
  • Learn more: Oral Health in Dane County: Moving Toward Equity Issue Brief

Initiatives to Improve Access to Oral Health Care

  • We work as part of the Oral Health Coalition of Dane County to improve oral health through prevention, education and increasing access to dental care. The Coalition is currently working on strategies to help support, develop, and improve systems that will provide oral health care more efficiently and equitably. Collaborative efforts include:

    • Developing an alternate system to using the emergency department for non-traumatic dental pain.
      Learn more: A Report on Dane County Hospital Emergency Department & Urgent Care Visits for Non-Traumatic Dental Pain
    • Increasing the number of dentists who accept new patients with BadgerCare insurance.
    • Engaging decision-makers in oral health issues at multiple levels.
    • Developing a system for community dental care coordination.
    • Working to integrate providing oral health assessment and fluoride varnish at all well child visits in primary medical care practices, and ultimately integrating medical and dental preventive services throughout all of the health care organizations.

Supporting Health Care Models that Deliver Culturally Competent Services

gay couple kissingWhy it Matters

  • LGBTQ+ individuals experience barriers to accessing health care including lack of culturally specific care, limited availability of services, and discrimination.
  • National data suggest that members of the LGBTQ+ population experience worse physical and mental health outcomes than their heterosexual or cisgender peers. 

What the Data Shows

  • Identifying as LGBTQ+ has been linked to having higher rates of mental illness including depression and anxiety, suicide, accumulated stress from social stigmatization and marginalization, substance abuse, and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and asthma. They also more frequently experience violence and victimization.
  • Learn more: Dane County LGBTQ+ Health and Wellness Profile

Initiatives to Support Culturally Competent Services

  • Our Dane County LGBTQ+ Health and Wellness Profile provides a summary of challenges and opportunities to improve LGBTQ+ health in Dane County. The Profile provides recommendations for supporting LGBTQ+ health, including efforts to build understanding, assessing and evaluating policies and practices, and enacting new models for delivering culturally competent services and health care.
  • In 2017 and 2018, Public Health Madison & Dane County hosted LGBTQ+ health equity trainings for government, social service professionals and other community partners. These trainings offer a space to learn more about health issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and imagine ways to offer more inclusive services. For more information on the trainings contact us
  • We are focusing on making our sexual health care services culturally-specific for the transgender community. Trans-inclusive training is being provided to our staff as well as additional training modules focused on trauma-informed care and mental well-being.

Making Affordable Health Care Services More Accessible

doctor's office waiting roomWhy it Matters

  • The high cost of health care prevents uninsured patients from receiving general and preventative health care.
  • Because uninsured patients do not receive the right care in the right place, they are up to four times as likely as insured patients to require avoidable hospitalizations and emergency care.

What the Data Shows

  • The greatest barrier to enrolling in health care coverage is lack of awareness about eligibility and concern about the cost of plans.
  • Health care plans that have unaffordable cost-sharing can be a barrier to receiving medical care and are especially a problem for those with chronic physical and medical conditions.  
  • Non-financial barriers also can cause people to forego and delay medical care.  Among them are lack of providers and services; transportation; hours of operation; difficulty navigating the health care system; and sensitive care.  
  • Learn more:  Access to Health Care in Dane County, November 2015

Initiatives to Link Community Members to Affordable Health Care