Wisconsin Partnership Program advances Wisconsin Idea

May 10, 2007

From combating childhood obesity to creating a geriatric center serving Milwaukee's Latino population, the Wisconsin Partnership Program distributed more than $16 million in grants in 2006, according to the program's third annual report to the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents.

Robert Golden, dean of University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) presented the report today (May 10) to the UW System Board of Regents.

The funds for the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health came from the conversion of Blue Cross/Blue Shield to a for-profit organization.

"Four overall themes guide our grant selection process," Golden says. "First, collaboration with communities - which is the embodiment of the Wisconsin Idea; second, educating health professionals, including the public health workforce, with a focus on diverse populations and the special needs of the underserved; third, closing the gap between discovery and the application of research findings in communities; and fourth, moving forward on the transformation to a School of Medicine and Public Health."

In his report, Dean Golden stated that 35 percent of the funds — or $6.7 million — are allocated for community-initiated public health projects.

"These public health projects were approved by our Oversight and Advisory Committee, which is made up of community representatives, SMPH faculty and a representative from the commissioner of insurance," Golden says. "Awards in 2006 were made in all five regions of the state's public health districts, with $2.3 million or 38 percent of the funds allocated to statewide programs; $1.3 million or 21 percent went to Milwaukee-based organizations."

Golden reported that 65 percent of the funds are designated for medical education and research projects (MERC) which aim to improve the health of Wisconsin residents over the long term.

"The major themes of the MERC awards are translating research results into meaningful changes in community practices throughout the state," he notes, "and accelerating the transformation of the school, in part by strengthening partnerships within the university and across the entire state."

Golden says the Partnership Program made a significant commitment of approximately $7 million to support creation of the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. The goal of this project is to create an environment that brings university research more quickly and effectively into community practice.

"The aim is to bridge the gap between what we know and what we do," Golden says. The project reflects a unique partnership between the SMPH, the Schools of Nursing, Pharmacy, and Veterinary Medicine and the College of Engineering, and also reaches across the state to Marshfield Clinic. Plans include adding Aurora Sinai Hospital in Milwaukee.

"Since 2004, the Wisconsin Partnership Program has awarded 129 grants for a total of $50 million to community organizations and to faculty, which address the health challenges facing the people of Wisconsin," Golden says. "Although it is too early to declare that significant changes have occurred, the imprints of the Wisconsin Partnership Program's initiatives are beginning to emerge. Some funded grants are nearing completion and outcomes are being analyzed. The program has enabled and supported an ever-increasing number of community partnerships as well as collaborations within and outside of the university with state agencies."