Commission for Social Development launches research project studying structural racism in Milwaukee



Dr. George Hinton, CEO, Commission for Social Development
(Photo/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

By Karen Stokes

Jennifer Harris, Head of Research and Policy (Photo/SDC)

The Social Development Commission (SDC) is launching a research project through its new Institute on Poverty and Structural Racism, which will examine the impact of structural racism on the African-American community in Milwaukee.

The project, named Dismantling Racism Invigorating Equity (DRIVE), a two-year project, is funded by a $200,000 grant from Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment.

DRIVE will be supported by a collaboration between researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“It’s actually a long time coming,” said Jennifer Harris, head of research and policy at the SDC. “SDC by Mandate is a state, city, and county creature that directs our commission to research, analyze, and recommend solutions to societal problems, especially problems that affect individual groups who live and live in poverty.”

In 2019, a resolution was signed in Milwaukee County declaring racism a public health crisis that affects society as a whole.

“This research takes the next step and uses the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparity’s research framework model to determine what discrimination really looks like in Milwaukee County,” Harris said.

Harris noted that the study is groundbreaking because most studies of racism look at individual impact. Their project examines the impact on the neighborhood and the community of systemic racism and discrimination.

The study will be conducted among adults living in downtown Milwaukee who receive services from SDC. Participants will have a survey they fill out on topics such as living environment and biometrics (height, weight and blood pressure).

The data will be used to assess the effectiveness of the commission’s programming and develop policy recommendations that can be shared with local officials.

“We hope that we will provide the kind of research that other researchers across the country will want to do that will be more actionable in its nature,” said Dr. George P. Hinton, CEO of SDC. “The research is going to help us explore the questions that will then be explored about how we can transform systems and processes and think about how we can impact poverty differently.”

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