Ehrenthal to lead UW Prevention Research Center

Tags: reproductive and population health

This fall, the first US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Prevention Research Center will begin work in Wisconsin, under the leadership of UW Ob-Gyn Division for Reproductive and Population Health Director Deborah Ehrenthal, MD.

UW-Madison is one of 25 academic institutions to receive five-year funding from the CDC to establish a Prevention Research Center. The center reflects a partnership between the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, Institute on Poverty, and the School of Human Ecology.

The center’s mission will be to improve the health of low-income women, infants and families in Wisconsin. Ehrenthal will be the director of the center.  The goal of these centers is to study how communities and individuals can avoid risk for chronic illness.

“We are very excited to bring a center like this to our entire state. We plan to engage multidisciplinary campus researchers, public health practitioners, and community-based and government organizations to develop a research plan and agenda that addresses the priorities in Wisconsin,” said Ehrenthal. “The long-term effects of pregnancy and early childhood point to maternal and child health as a key period when intervention may have great impact on adult health and chronic disease.”

Among other challenges, the infant-mortality rate for black babies in Wisconsin is two to three times higher than for white babies.

“This is a great example of the Wisconsin Idea. Our work at the University can impact the entire state. Wisconsin is a great setting for geographical, socioeconomic, racial and ethnic diversity,” said Ehrenthal. “The community-engaged prevention research done at our center will apply to other states and regions.” 

The initial core center research project , led by UW faculty Roseanne Clark, Department of Psychiatry, and Jane Mahoney, Department of Medicine, will be to address postpartum depression in Wisconsin mothers. It will focus on home visits and other interventions that could improve maternal depression and support infant attachment. About 20 percent of new mothers overall have postpartum depression, but the rate is nearly 30 percent among low-income mothers in Wisconsin.

Congratulations, Dr. Ehrenthal!