2/25/21 Newsletter: Urgent Stories Needed To Be Written

Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service (WIPPS)
Student Journalism Program Participants

Roger Utnehmer, Director
Student Journalism Program

WIPPS is involved in two very important programs that are newsworthy and provide you with a great opportunity to write stories with impact.

One is a Hmong Hispanic Network called H2N that has a focus on the immediate Wausau area but has news value throughout the state. You’ll find an attachment with this memo that explains it in great detail.

The second story is about a Dept. of Health Student Voices Project focusing on how students throughout the state are coping with COVID. You can find background information at the WIPPS website.

These are two stories each and every participant in the student journalism program can and should write about now. The topics are important. The ability to inform about current issues makes both newsworthy.

Let’s get on these and provide some great content for your media partners.


Hmong and Hispanic Communication Network (H2N)



Hmong and Hispanic communities are particularly vulnerable to negative health, educational, and economic impacts of COVID-19. Language, cultural and literacy barriers, insufficient awareness of available services and resources, lack of protection in workplaces, and differences in health beliefs and behaviors present challenges. Immigration issues and discrimination further complicate.  Healthcare providers and existing systems are often not fully aware of these issues and lack effective communication networks for underserved populations.

In response to existing communication barriers with Hmong and Hispanic communities in Marathon and contiguous counties, the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service (WIPPS) assembled a network of concerned community partners, including the Medical College of Wisconsin-Central Wisconsin (MCW-CW), to address these challenges in late March 2020 – the Hmong and Hispanic Communication Network (H2N) project. H2N focuses on strengthening communication channels and facilitating regular information exchange between public health/health systems/resource agencies and people in the Hmong and Hispanic communities through Community Coordinators (CCs) and a network of Community Health Workers (CHWs). The model consistently incorporates the insights of Hmong and Hispanic community members.

Through established relationships, WIPPS recruited respected and well-connected bilingual Hmong and Hispanic Community Coordinators (CC) who then each recruited 4 individuals to be CHWs. 4 Hmong and 4 Hispanic CHWs were trained in May 2020. Trainings included basic CDC and WI DHS information about SARS-CoV-2, prevention and mitigation of COVID-19, and familiarization with the CDC site. CHWs shared about community concerns, information gaps, social networks and platforms preferred in their communities, and types of messaging that might be most helpful. Modelling prevention strategies such as wearing masks, physical distancing, hand washing/sanitizing was emphasized.


CCs and CHWs are reaching community members through multiple channels such as farm visits, collaboration at Hunger Coalition events, existing programs at the Hmong American Center, family/friend connections, churches, and food box drop-offs for quarantined families. They have also assisted the Marathon County health department with translation at COVID testing sites, trust building, and contact tracing.

CCs and CHWs are all supplied with an iPad. In addition to improved access to virtual meeting spaces, through the iPads, CCs and CHWs are able to access an online list of resources, including videos, that was compiled for the project and continues to be updated. In addition to COVID-specific information, this collection of materials also includes resources for needs such as food and rent assistance, available services for mental health, domestic abuse, legal rights and more.

Between May-October, CCs and CHWs reached over 1000 people in Hmong and Hispanic communities through H2N. People in these communities have been able to share their concerns and ideas, while at the same time receiving information about COVID-19 and access to resources in their own language. We have learned that written materials have limited value given language and literacy barriers. Video and person-to-person messaging is often much more effective. A partnership with United Way of Wisconsin developed to raise awareness about 2-1-1 with a goal of increasing Hmong and Hispanic community comfort with utilization of the service. Liaisons have been providing feedback about potential barriers and suggestions about making the service feel more accessible, welcoming and safe for people in Hmong and Hispanic communities.

The importance of trusted messengers has been reinforced through the H2N project. CHWs are taking the opportunity to lead in their community. They have stepped up with integrity, courage and confidence not only to help fight the spread of the coronavirus, but they have become advocates in helping address a wide variety of needs in their communities.

New Activities

WIPPS/H2N was awarded DHS Influenza Community Outreach funding to engage Hmong and Hispanic communities about influenza and influenza vaccines beginning November 1. Through CHW community conversations over the past several months, among other things, we have learned that there is general mistrust about vaccinations, disease constructs in Hispanic cultures or traditional Hmong culture may not be amenable to vaccines, and there are financial barriers for uninsured and logistical barriers for accessing vaccines. Outreach by trusted messengers and making affordable influenza vaccines accessible will be paramount in improving influenza vaccination rates in Hmong and Hispanic communities. DHS funding has allowed us to double the number of CHWs and we are developing culturally sensitive Hmong and Hispanic media and social media campaigns. Video loops are also being created so that CHWs can increase their ability to reach people through these videos and socially distanced in-person contact at Hmong and Hispanic grocery stores and laundromats. CHWs will be helping link people to influenza vaccinations, including influenza vaccination outreach clinics through the First Presbyterian Church Free Clinic. H2N may also be utilized to promote COVID-19 vaccinations when they become available.

Whether or not a person has health insurance significantly impacts their health, particularly in a pandemic scenario and tumultuous economic times. H2N CCs and CHWs received training about the ACA marketplace and open enrollment through Covering Wisconsin in recent weeks, and they are letting people know about open enrollment and potential public and private health insurance options. CCs and CHWs also received training regarding the Public Charge Rule to be able to provide accurate public benefit information to community members and not unwittingly expose them to immigration dangers. WIPPS/H2N is grateful for the partnership and support from Covering Wisconsin.

Partnerships and Funding

Partnerships and collaboration are central to H2N. WIPPS has been the backbone organization. MCW-CW has been assisting with data collection and MCW-CW students have participated in food distribution events and plan to assist with upcoming vaccination clinics. WIPPS gathers collaborators from MCW-CW, Marathon County Health Department, Aspirus, Ascension WI, Marshfield Clinic Health System, E.A.G. Interpreters Hispanic Outreach, Hmong WI Chamber of Commerce, Hmong American Center, Presbyterian Church Free Clinic, United Way of Marathon County, Bridge Community Clinic, and Abby Area Collaborative Team at least biweekly. We are also regularly connecting with Wisconsin DHS, Covering Wisconsin, and Mexican Consulate Mobile Outreach partners.

Through the end of October, H2N was funded through grants from CFONCW/United Way COVID-19 Community Response Fund, Aspirus, Ascension WI, Abby Bank Foundation, Northcentral WI Area Health Education Centers, Church Mutual, and Marshfield Clinic Health System. Additionally, July-October we received funding through United Way of Wisconsin for the project with a focus on getting word out about 211 in Hmong and Hispanic communities and to hear insights from CHWs about experiences accessing resources in these communities. New funding partnerships beginning in November include Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Covering Wisconsin. H2N was also awarded a CARES City of Wausau Community Development Block Grant for work in Wausau in 2021.


Here are some presentations and examples of media coverage for H2N and LENA

1-6-21  2021 WI Agricultural Safety Connections Conference – Resources for Agricultural Workers panel. H2N was presented to 80 attendees. They didn’t record it but I have slides if you’d like them.

1/21/2021  WSAW interviewed Jeff Todd and Tony Gonzalez after Biden’s new executive orders and how it might impact area immigrant populations (this was kind of an odd one – the story from December listed below was more H2N specific)

6-23-20  Region V Public Health Training Center – “COVID-19: Engaging Hmong and Hispanic Populations in Bi-Directional Communication” – Tony, Mang and I did an hour webinar for several hundred people

12-18-20  Channel 7 News Story about H2N and the DHS grant – Tony, Mang, and I

11-17-20  MCW Community Engagement conference – presentation and poster about H2N. (I attached some slides that were used)


Founded in 2007, WIPPS is a unit of the University of Wisconsin System. WIPPS mission is to address local, state and national issues by linking public scholarship, civic outreach and student service to enhance community life throughout Wisconsin. WIPPS works with citizens and communities through organizing and facilitating conferences and workshops, communication and group processes, panels and lectures, candidate forums, public dialogue and deliberation projects, original programs and research projects. To engage young people in civic life, WIPPS provides student internship and service opportunities.   WIPPS is nonpartisan and committed to independence, objectivity and transparency. WIPPS has become a trusted resource with the ability to bring people and organizations from diverse perspectives together for civil discourse and/or to attain a common goal. Partnerships and collaboration are vital to our work. WIPPS offices are located at the UW Center for Civic Engagement in Wausau, WI.