Planning A Statewide Prenatal to Five Initiative

children in dress-up clothes

The Center for Child and Family Well-Being at the UW-Madison School of Human Ecology, in collaboration with the UW-Madison School of Education, the College of Letters and Science, and School of Medicine and Public Health, UW System and Extension colleagues, and statewide community partners, is currently in the planning phases of an exciting statewide “Prenatal to Five” Initiative.

The Center for Child and Family Well-Being (CCFW) has long focused on the key developmental stage of “Prenatal to Five”, along with other stages in the lifecourse. Research confirms that prenatal development and the first years are of critical importance for brain development, including neural capacities for self-regulation, social skills, and academic achievement.

Health considerations and environmental or “human ecology” factors bear heavily on this developmental stage – including but not limited to nutrition, parenting and caregiving, safe and healthy physical environments, and adequate language and social stimulation.

A key premise of the “Prenatal to Five” Initiative will be to promulgate meaningful research and promote and innovate best practices through a statewide network. This network will ultimately result in improvements for all Wisconsin children, and for our state as a whole.

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Targeting this critical stage of development for Wisconsin children is necessary work to address the persistent disparities that plague our state. While Wisconsin ranks 13th in overall child well-being, Wisconsin’s children of color fare much worse than their white counterparts. Recent reports indicate that the overall well-being of Wisconsin’s African-American children is among the worst in the nation. Starting from early stages of development and stretching across the lifespan in Wisconsin, well-documented gulfs exist between outcomes for whites and blacks in education, employment, income, and incarceration.

CCFW has begun work on this vision by scanning scholars and practitioners in the state who are working on topics related to the “Prenatal to Five” stage of development. While this work is ongoing, hundreds of scholars across the UW System and other campuses, as well as community practitioners across the state have been contacted and included as potential collaborators for a statewide Initiative to increase knowledge, improve practice, and address disparities related to Wisconsin children’s Prenatal to Five experience.

Adult and two small children playing a game.
We are excited to see enthusiastic collaboration that has already started and we are hopeful about the big vision around this critical issue for the future of our Wisconsin children. The Prenatal to Five Initiative is a great example of how the Centers of Excellence and SoHE can contribute to multidisciplinary, community-engaged, campus-involved approaches to address “grand challenges”, to further the Wisconsin Idea. Forward!


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