WIPPS Research Partners
WIPPS Research Partners

Community Health Deliberative Dialogues – How Do We Achieve a Healthy Community for All?

For many years in Wisconsin, local health departments have been working alongside partner organizations hosting community conversations to develop a shared understanding of what creates health and well-being, advancing concepts of social determinants of health and health equity. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the need for a shared understanding of how we make healthy communities for all. Furthering the shared understanding of healthy communities among community leaders and the general public is a key strategy to improve health outcomes and close the gap in health disparities, thereby advancing the wellbeing of all residents and the economic vitality of communities.

View the dialogue summaries below:

Deliberative dialogue (also referred to as public deliberation) is a promising strategy for fostering community conversations. It is a way for people to weigh together various approaches to solving problems and to find courses of action consistent with what is valuable to the whole community. Sometimes we face issues so severe and complex—especially at the community level—that we cannot resolve them without significant public input. By weighing the drawbacks and benefits of possible actions on an issue of importance by interested members of a community, it is possible to identify shared values and potentially come to common ground.

Deliberative dialogue helps people to consider what they hold valuable about an issue and provides space to weigh options and make choices that lead to decisions. By deliberating together, people in a community wrestle with the concerns that really matter to them.  They learn what they can agree on (and what they cannot). It is this shared sense of what is at stake and where there is common ground for action that serves as the basis for healthy public involvement.

For this reason, UW Extension collaborated with Wisconsin Institute of Public Policy and Service (WIPPS), UW Population Health Institute, and Wisconsin Public Health Forward/Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards to pilot deliberative dialogue conversations in three Wisconsin communities (Adams, Jackson, and Marinette Counties). These dialogues were focused on the topic of How Do We Achieve a Healthy Community for All? The purpose of these conversations was to:

  • identify if the deliberative dialogue method could help build trust among residents and local community leaders and decision makers including health officers;
  • listen to both community leaders and residents to understand how they perceive issues of health equity;
  • work toward a shared understanding of the importance of equity to advance health and avoid unnecessary health differences across Wisconsin communities; and
  • identify lessons learned about the deliberative dialogue approach that, if successful, could be replicated in other communities.

Two reports were produced for this project.

How Do We Achieve a Healthy Community for All? Adams, Jackson, and Marinette County Dialogue Summaries

How Do We Achieve a Healthy Community for All? Participant Feedback and Lessons Learned about the Dialogue Process