The Wisconsin Clearinghouse for Prevention Resources closes its doors this year after four decades of serving the citizens of Wisconsin.
A living, breathing embodiment of the Wisconsin Idea, the Clearinghouse sought to transform communities and bring people together on issues surrounding public health, including obesity, tobacco use, and alcohol and other drug abuse. Community stakeholders were also convened in the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea throughout the Clearinghouse’s history. Often, the goals surrounding these issues could only be achieved by involving key public health and community members.
“After nearly 40 years of evolving we are ending our work with real results, many success stories, and a group of more highly focused agents of change in all of the communities we had the pleasure of working with under our final phase as funders of the Transform WI Grants,” said Julie Swanson, co-director of the Clearinghouse.
Opened in 1975, the Clearinghouse was originally affiliated with the University of Wisconsin’s Dean of Students Office. In 1980, affiliation was shifted to UW Hospitals but returned to the Dean of Students Office five years later.
Finally, in 1992, UW Chancellor Donna Shalala moved all campus health-related services, including the Clearinghouse, under the umbrella of University Health Services, where it resided until its closing.
The Transform Wisconsin Fund is just one of many outreach efforts undertaken by the Clearinghouse. Conducted from 2011 through 2014, it worked to create tobacco-free living environments, get students up and moving through physical activity in the classroom, and more.
The Clearinghouse’s unique position allowed it to remain both innovative and responsive to the ever-changing health needs of Wisconsin. Non-traditional prevention partners were often brought together to collaborate on projects; as the leader of Wisconsin’s five-year Community Transformation Grant, the Clearinghouse drew on UW resources like the Department of Family Medicine.
The closure of the Clearinghouse leaves a void in public outreach in Wisconsin. Standing on neutral ground, the Clearinghouse worked to improve the lives of Wisconsinites even as the political landscape shifted over the course of 40 years.
Swanson said she is proud of the work the unit accomplished.
“With our head in the academic world and our feet solidly planted at the community level where theory can become reality, our legacy shows you can shorten the cycle of change in public health.”