Celebrating Gina Green-Harris, a champion for health equity and people with dementia

Gina Green-Harris, MBA, is director of the WAI Regional Milwaukee Office, where she serves as a champion for equity in Alzheimer’s disease research and building support for people living with dementia and caregivers.

Gina Green Harris MBA
Gina Green-Harris at the UW-Madison Outstanding Woman of Color Awards, March 2020. – Photo by Andy Manis

Recognizing the emerging public health crisis Alzheimer’s disease poses on communities of color, the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute developed an outreach program in Milwaukee in 2008, led by Green-Harris. The team she built forged new connections and created a community engagement model that led to more dialogue in the African American community about Alzheimer’s disease. These relationships more than doubled the number of African American participants in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP) study. Since then, she has received multiple appointments to lead initiatives at UW School of Medicine and Public Health. In addition to her role at WAI, she serves as director for Center for Community Engagement and Health Partnerships, Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families, and All of Us Research Program in Milwaukee.

Green-Harris’s work is featured in the October 2020 issue of Quarterly, a magazine from UW School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH). In the interview, she reflects on the role research can serve in building more equitable health outcomes.

“At the end of the day, if we hope to see health equity, we have to reach the people who have the most disparate conditions, and research is critical and essential to changing the narrative,” she said. “I am thankful that I get to be a change agent for innovative research and strategic programming that will impact the lives of many who would otherwise be left behind.” Read the full article here.

In September 2020, Green-Harris was appointed to chair the Governor’s Health Equity Council. Under her direction, the group is charged with creating a comprehensive plan to achieve equitable health outcomes for all people in Wisconsin, namely by addressing health disparities based on race, economic status, education level, history of incarceration and geographic location.

UW-Madison recognized Green-Harris as an Outstanding Woman of Color in March 2020. The annual awards celebrates women who are deeply rooted in the campus and the Madison community through their work for social justice, service, research and community building. At the awards ceremony, Green-Harris was recognized for her work as “a nationally recognized expert on the topic of Alzheimer’s dementia disparities for African Americans and the essential need for culturally appropriate ways to provide outreach and engagement, in addition to the importance of including African Americans in research.” Watch a video of Green-Harris at the awards ceremony from WKOW TV.

Providing support during COVID-19:

WAI pivoted to offering extensive virtual programming during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Milwaukee office launched a series of virtual programs called Coffee & Chat, bringing together local experts to discuss healthy aging topics and chat with community members. The Amazing Grace Chorus has continued to serve its members and is holding meetings and rehearsals virtually. Find upcoming program dates and read more about all of the WAI Regional Milwaukee Office’s programs and services here.

The UW-Madison Center for Community Engagements and Health Partnerships in Milwaukee, along with campus partners including WAI Regional Milwaukee, launched a new education series on June 19, 2020. The Addressing Systemic Racism webinars bring together experts to examine root causes and solutions to addressing the racial disparities impacting African Americans.

“Through these webinars, our intent is to provide truthful narratives by credible leaders about the journey of Black and Brown people in this country, and our resilience as a people,” Green-Harris said. “They further provide clear, realistic information, including action steps for people who continue to ask the proverbial questions, ‘How can I learn more and what can I do in my own sphere or circle?'”

The webinars were held throughout the summer and continue throughout 2020. Watch videos of past events and read more about Addressing Systemic Racism series.