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NCCP Director of Health and Mental Health Selected for New National Leadership Program to Build a Culture of Health

Yumiko Aratani

Figure 1: Yumiko Aratani

New York, NY—With their ability to design research to meet urgent community needs and to directly apply research to create change, researchers and community leaders—such as directors of nonprofits, faith leaders, community organizers, and advocates—are powerful partners for impacting urgent community health needs.

As one of only 15 three-person teams selected from 185 applicants, Yumiko Aratani, PhD, joins Interdisciplinary Research Leaders, a new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program that is bringing together researchers and community leaders from across the country to collaborate and innovate to solve persistent challenges and advance a Culture of Health—one that places well-being at the center of every aspect of life. Dr. Aratani, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and director of health and mental health at the National Center for Children in Poverty, joins researchers and community leaders from across the country to collaborate and innovate to solve persistent challenges and advance a Culture of Health—one that places well-being at the center of every aspect of life.

Led by the University of Minnesota, Interdisciplinary Research Leaders will bring together teams comprised of two researchers and one community leader, helping them develop advanced leadership skills and a clear focus on health and equity that will enable them to break down silos, address health disparities, and build fundamentally healthier communities.

As part of the program, Dr. Aratani will work with her team members Sabrina Kelley, MPH, Fresno Housing Authority, and Irán Barrera, PhD, associate professor in the department of social work at Fresno State University. The team will investigate the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among parents with young children living in public housing communities in Fresno, California, and examine the impact of an evidence-based parenting program and preventive early intervention mental health support on young children. The team will also examine how the intervention's impact varies by the severity of parental ACEs. Children in the City of Fresno have significant health risks that stem from living in communities with some of the highest concentrations of poverty in the nation, high crime rates, low high school graduation rates, and linguistic isolation.

During the three-year program, team members will be developing high-level leadership skills through professional coaching, mentoring, networking, and an advanced leadership curriculum.While participating in the program, all team members will continue working full time while applying new knowledge and leadership in their communities and their field.

"This program gives our fellows the tools to make their work even more relevant and potent—and to bring new leadership skills and perspectives back to their communities as well," says J. Michael Oakes, PhD, director of Interdisciplinary Research Leaders and professor at the University of Minnesota. "We were overwhelmed by the commitment, diverse perspectives, and innovative ideas in our applicant pool and are very excited to work with this first group to put research into action and create a lasting, on-the-ground impact."

Additional partners providing training and coaching to fellows include: AcademyHealth, Allina Health, ISAIAH, and Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

Interdisciplinary Research Leaders is one of four new leadership development programs launched this year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and represent a four-year, multimillion dollar investment. The programs join five existing leadership programs in advancing RWJF's legacy of supporting the development and diversity of leaders impacting health. The 2017 application period for the new programs will open in January. Additional information is available at www.interdisciplinaryresearch-leaders.org.