Shannon Sparks

Shannon Sparks

Assistant Professor, Civil Society and Community Studies
4151 Nancy Nicholas Hall, 1300 Linden Drive

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and most inhumane.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speech to the Medical Committee for Human Rights, 1966

I first read this quote over twenty years ago, and it has resonated with me ever since.  I have seen shocking disparities in health and health care access in many of the underserved communities I’ve worked with across the country. These experiences shaped my existing research agenda on health disparities and health equity, and reinforced my view that this work must be approached from a social justice perspective.  I see health as a basic human right, and I approach health disparities in partnership with communities themselves according to their needs and priorities utilizing culturally-informed, strengths-based approaches to health promotion that simultaneously build community capacity to address health concerns and make concrete differences in health outcomes in the community.

Shannon Sparks CV

  • Health Disparities & Health Equity
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Health Care Decision Making and Treatment-Seeking Behavior
  • Household Production of Health
  • Lay Health Education & Patient Navigation
  • Maternal & Child Health/Well-Being
  • Child Caregiving & Alternative Caregivers
  • American Indian Communities
  • Hmong Communities
  • Community-Based Participatory Research
  • Qualitative & Ethnographic Methods

Healthy Hmong Women (Poj Niam Hmoob Kev Noj Qab Haus Huv)
Community-based research partnership with the Milwaukee Consortium for Hmong Health to increase knowledge of and build capacity to address Hmong women’s cancer disparities.

Networks, Organizations and Birth Outcomes (NOBO)
Community-based research partnership between the School of Human Ecology and Public Health-Madison & Dane County investigating the roles of local organizations in reducing racial disparities in birth outcomes in Dane County, Wisconsin.

Intergenerational Health and Wellness Messengers
Community-academic partnership with the Wisconsin Pink Shawl Initiative and the Junior Pink Shawls developing and piloting an intergenerational education and breast health promotion program that utilizes American Indian youth and women’s intergenerational relationships to increase breast cancer screening rates for American Indian women.

Sustainable Equitable Engagement Process (SEEP)
Partnership with UW Cooperative Extension evaluating Cooperative Extension programs throughout the state that have been successful in engaging underserved audiences with the aim of learning from these successes and integrating equitable engagement into Cooperative Extension’s programming approach. The goal of SEEP is to cultivate a multilevel, responsive, equitable and sustainable process that intentionally engages underserved audiences around Cooperative Extension’s educational priorities.


School of Human Ecology

  • Community-Based Participatory Research (CSCS 811)
  • Social Ecology of Health Inequities (HDFS 766)

American Indian Studies

  • Introduction to American Indian Studies (Amer Ind 100)
  • Native Peoples of the Southwest (Amer Ind 320)
  • American Indian Health and Well-Being (Amer Ind 450)
  • American Indian Families (Amer Ind 522/HDFS 522)