Kris A. Barnekow, PhD, OTR/LAssociate Professor
- Early intervention
- Health literacy
- Social-emotional screening for parents and children with special health care needs
- Infant mental health.
Interests & Expertise
As an experienced occupational therapist, Kris Barnekow has served families of children enrolled in services through Milwaukee County’s Birth to 3 Program. Barnekow’s clinical experience provided her with an understanding of the importance of family empowerment and navigation through systems of care. For that reason her research has focused on health promotion and disease prevention strategies for parents and children who have special health care needs.
A primary concentration of Barnekow’s research is the promotion of optimal developmental outcomes through early identification of social emotional disorders in mothers and young children. Collectively, the findings of her research indicate that mothers of children with special health care needs who reside in urban areas are more likely to screen positive for depression and perinatal posttraumatic stress disorder.
Even though the Institute of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend screening in community settings to detect maternal and child social emotional disorders, early intervention providers are currently not incorporating this evidence into practice. Consequently, screening of mothers and children remains relatively low in early intervention settings.
Another focus of Barnekow’s research program is health literacy. As such, she is part of an interdisciplinary team that has investigated the readability of early intervention program
literature and the health literacy skills of parents who have children enrolled in early intervention programs. While parents of children enrolled in Birth to 3 possess adequate functional health literacy; many parents/caregivers of children with special health care needs continue to have difficulty navigating multiple systems of care. This may be partially due to poor written and oral communication skills of their providers, which negatively affects the parents’ interactive health literacy abilities.
Barnekow aims to collaborate with scholars who have a shared interest in investigating the relation between health literacy concepts, early identification of social emotional disorders and promotion of optimal outcomes for children with special health care needs.
Recent Funded Grants
Submission date: October, 2012. Status: Awarded 2/28/2013
Title: Engaging African-American Fathers to Reduce Infant Mortality by Improving their Health Literacy.
Community Partner: Planning Council of Health and Human Services and the Medical Society of Milwaukee County.
Wisconsin LEND: Milwaukee Link Site Project Coordinator – Wisconsin LEND: Milwaukee Link.
Status: Awarded 5/01/2013
Title: Specialized interdisciplinary training for graduate students in Maternal and Child Health. Subcontract.
Program Director: Anne Harris, Waisman Center. Clinic director: Bonnie Klein-Tasman.
Discipline Coordinator – UW-Milwaukee Pipeline Training Initiative.
Status: Awarded 6/5/2011
Title: Training grant supporting interdisciplinary pre-service training in Maternal and Child Health.
- David Pate, Associate Professor, Helen Bader School of Social Welfare
- Katie Pritchard, President and CEO, Planning Council for Health and Human Services
- Dr. George Morris, Medical Society of Milwaukee County