Public health school students trained to tackle deeply rooted social problems

Editor’s note: This article is one of an occasional series profiling the 14 finalists for the Milwaukee Awards for Neighborhood Development Innovation (MANDIs). The Zilber School of Public Health is a finalist for the State Farm Building Blocks Award, which recognizes a real estate project that enhances the community.

For Lilliann M. Paine, the first student to earn a master’s degree at UWM’s Zilber School of Public Health, tackling Milwaukee’s stubbornly high infant mortality rate can seem like a daunting, almost unwinnable task.

“I know that we’re not going to move the needle overnight,” said Paine, who is the program manager for the Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families (LIHF), a program designed to improve birth outcomes for African Americans in Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and Beloit. “It’s going to take a generation.”

At least now, said Paine, who grew up on Milwaukee’s North Side, “We (African Americans) have a seat at the table, a voice.”

When Magda Peck, a nationally renowned expert in the public health field, became the school’s founding dean in 2012, she envisioned helping to shape students such as Paine who would work to solve problems that have been plaguing Milwaukee and other poor communities for generations.

Peck considers Milwaukee the sentinel city of America; a place to confront these problems head on. “It is the most important community because it has the greatest assets and the greatest problems,” Peck said…

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