Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Friday, July 22, 2016

Students' reports draw attention to challenging policy issues

Class of 2016 Workshop reports, clients

Academic Outcomes for Wisconsin High School Students in Out-of-Home Care, Department of Public Instruction and Department of Children and Families 

Analysis of Madison's Neighborhood Indicator Data, City of Madison

Benefits of and Strategies for Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptive Promotion in Wisconsin, UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health 

Changes to Wisconsin's Driver's License Reinstatement Policy, Legal Assistance to Institutionalized Persons

Climate Migrants and Urban Adaptation in India and China, Notre Dame-GAIN

Evaluation of the Wisconsin Assisted Living Regulatory System, Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Investing in Wisconsin Waterfronts, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Redefining MCC's Candidate Pool: Evaluating Alternative Approaches to Measuring Distribution of Poverty, Millennium Challenge Corporation

Previous Workshop reports 

Workshop reports by the La Follette School of Public Affairs’ Class of 2016 shed light on some of the most challenging local, national, and international policy issues. One report – about the potential for long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) to mitigate the negative effects of unintended pregnancies – has received national media attention.

In collaboration with the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, four master of public affairs students prepared and analyzed three strategies for promoting LARC use and reducing unintended pregnancies in Wisconsin. “The costs associated with implementing each of the programs or regulatory changes are relatively low when compared to the millions of dollars in ... savings,” the report said.

La Follette School students Alisha Bower, Mark Japinga, Jessica Sabin, and Amanda Ward outlined evidence that unintended pregnancies are associated with a wide variety of negative physical health, mental health, and socio-economic outcomes. They also looked at the social and economic burden of unintended pregnancy and evaluated LARC promotion programs in St. Louis, Missouri, and Colorado.

John Torinus, Jr., a Wisconsin businessman who has written extensively on health care policy and reform, said in his blog that the report “has major implications for improving lives in the state.” He references the students’ proposal for a public-private pilot project in Milwaukee County, saying that it “could lead to public support for a statewide program, despite the contentious nature of the politics of contraception.”

When reporter Leigh Cuen read Torinus’ blog post, she was intrigued.

“The deeper these researchers dug into the facts about unexpected pregnancy, which make up a whopping 46 percent of annual pregnancies in Wisconsin, the clearer it became that reproductive health is an economic issue,” she wrote. “From publicly funded health services to food stamps and local schools, every aspect of public spending was influenced by low-income families struggling after unexpected pregnancies.”

La Follette School Professor Tim Smeeding is continuing this important work with Deborah Ehrenthal, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and population health sciences at UW-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health. One of the first public events in this effort will be a presentation by Mark Edwards, co-founder of Upstream US, this fall sponsored by the La Follette School, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Institute for Research on Poverty.

A Workshop report is the equivalent of a thesis for a master’s of public affairs or a master’s of international public affairs degree from the La Follette School. During the semester-long course, students gain practical experience applying the tools of political, economic, and statistical analysis they acquired during previous coursework. Each team produces research-based, analytical, evaluative, and prescriptive reports for clients ranging from municipal government to international development organizations.

“Through these projects, La Follette School students contribute to UW-Madison’s outreach mission and to the Wisconsin Idea,” said Director Susan Yackee, who invited two student groups to present their projects to the school’s Board of Visitors in April.

The La Follette School welcomes public, nonprofit, and private organizations to submit project proposals; details are online along with reports from previous years