UW-Madison students create master plan to redevelop Monona housing and recreation opportunities

Professor Patz’s Population Health course strategizes ways in which Monona could improve public health—recreational and physical—for residents, including seniors and people with disabilities


Devin Larsen


Gavin Luter, Shelly Strom, Marshall Curry


City of Monona, WI, United States
Community Size
8,045 (2018 Census Estimation)
University of Wisconsin - Madison
UniverCity Year
Population Health
EPA Region 5, USA
Sustainable Development Goals
03 Good Health and Well-Being
Population Type
Persons with Disabilities, Residents, Seniors/Elderly

Seniors and people with disabilities all across the United States face many difficulties, from accessing public recreational spaces to finding suitable, affordable housing. The inability to readily access outdoor spaces and find quality housing has considerable health impacts on groups in a vulnerable position. 

The City of Monona, Wisconsin, a metropolitan suburb surrounded by the City of Madison, has a population of approximately 8,000 people—a population that is older and has a modest number of people with disabilities living in their community. The city has been trying to synthesize strategies which would benefit the seniors and people with disabilities in their city, along with improving resident health by revamping outdated, hazardous housing complexes throughout Monona. 

The UniverCity Year program of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an EPIC-Network member, was created to help local government and community partners with identified sustainability and livability projects. Participating University faculty incorporate community-identified projects into classes, and provide students with on-the-ground experience in support of a more sustainable and livable future for the partnered community. 

During the 2016 to 2017 academic year, the City of Monona was chosen to partner with the UniverCity Year program due to its proximity to the university and for strong support from Mayor Bob Miller. 

Students assess health impacts throughout Monona

The UniverCity Year program partnered UW-Madison’s Spring 2017 Population Health 740: Health Impact Assessment of Global Environmental Change course with the City of Monona to investigate the effects produced by implementing public renovation projects. At the direction of Professor Jonathan Patz, students inspected the benefits which would be produced by draft plans created by Fall 2016 UniverCity Year undergraduate courses, as well as creating health impact assessments (HIA) for each. 

Students closely examined the following projects, creating HIAs for each: 

  • Winnequah Park redesign
  • Investment into and improvement of Monona’s lakeview parks
  • Addressing the City of Monona’s housing issues

Refocusing Monona housing plans for the modern age  

Thanks to the completed HIAs, students found that numerous areas of Monona required renovation, from deteriorating neighborhoods and housing to public parks which were inaccessible to the elderly and people with disabilities. Professor Patz’s class produced insightful recommendations which could expand access to affordable housing, housing fitting for physical limitations, public recreational spaces, and safe, non-hazardous housing for all citizens of Monona—no matter their age, physical condition, or disability status. These included: 

  • Encourage projects which increase recreational engagement to ensure all people can partake in healthy outdoor activities
  • Redevelop neighborhoods to include senior housing, housing that accommodates people with disabilities, and housing that is affordable
  • Renovate old housing units to remove potentially hazardous materials, replacing them with building materials beneficial to both environmental and human health

The recommendations provided by Professor Patz’s students have been presented to Monona officials and await further consideration. Students hope that their findings, presented thanks to the connection between UniverCity Year and Monona, can lead to actionable changes which will influence future housing plans, increasing resident health by improving accessibility to necessary housing and recreational opportunities. 

Read the full story of the partnership.

Read the final student report delivered to the local gov/community partner.

3 Health Impact Assessments Completed
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