October 21, 2016
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Study To Address Black Infant Mortality

MADISON, WI - The University of Wisconsin Center for Nonprofits will study the role nonprofit/community-based health and social service organizations played in reducing disparities in infant mortality. A $50,000 award provided through the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research was announced this week and will make the research effort possible. 

The African American infant mortality rates in Dane County Wisconsin first gained national attention for their dramatic decline between 2000-07. The rates spiked upward in 2008 and then dropped in 2009 - but remained higher than they were the previous seven years. While public health professionals have been studying patient data associated with the issue, this research will focus on the organizations that supported the patients and their providers and how different program efforts may have contributed to better outcomes. 

"The role community health and social service organizations may have played in impacting this issue will be the focus of our initial research," said Jeanan Yasiri, Executive Director of the UW Center for Nonprofits. Co-Principal Investigators on the research are assistant professors in the UW-Madison School of Human Ecology Brian Christens and Shannon Sparks. 

"In light of the greatly increased ability of black women in Dane County to carry their babies to term, and the great impact that has had on reducing infant mortality, research into how our local prenatal care system works now and how it has changed over time could be of great benefit for the entire state of Wisconsin and even nationally," says Tom Schlenker, M.D., director of Public Health Madison and Dane County. 

Other community partners in the research effort hope to better understand how different models of collaboration may have impacted better birth outcomes. 

"Dane County providers started working more closely with nonprofits and community agencies in the 1990s when it came to serving vulnerable populations," says Bobby Peterson, executive director of ABC for Health. "We're hoping this research will point to organizational approaches that may have contributed to better birth outcomes. These could be important lessons not just for Dane County, but the nation." 

The UW Center for Nonprofits was established in 2008 and provides a home for educational, research and outreach efforts advancing nonprofit interests. It is based within the UW School of Human Ecology but includes faculty and student affiliates from across the UW-Madison campus. 

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