Rush UMC researcher studies dynamics of black families and their health

A Rush University Medical Center educator and researcher in Chicago has pioneered the study of the dynamics of black families and what makes them vulnerable to issues like preterm labor.

Wrenetha Julion, PhD, was inspired to study black families as well as low-income families living in urban communities after working for eight years as a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at the John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County, formerly known as the Cook County Hospital in Chicago.

During her time as a nurse, she was touched by the heart-wrenching stories of families who visited the NICU, some of whom she could related to having been born and raised on the West Side of Chicago.

"There was something missing from what we were able to address," Dr. Julion said. "I wanted to know what was going on outside the hospital, and how that was affecting what happened when the families got there."

Since dedicating her research to the families of Chicago's communities, she has developed a nationally recognized parenting-skills training program used by Rush and other healthcare facilities. Dr. Julion also designed a program specifically for black fathers, called Building Bridges to Fatherhood, which uses videos to teach effective parenting skills.

A National Institutes of Health-funded study to test the effectiveness of Building Bridges to Fatherhood is currently in the second year of its four-year grant.



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