News Details

New Director of the Ortner Center

Jennifer Prah

Faculty & Research


Dean Sara S. Bachman is delighted to announce the appointment of Jennifer J. Prah, Amartya Sen Professor of Health Equity, Economics and Policy in the School of Social Policy & Practice, as the Director of the Ortner Center on Violence and Abuse.

“One of the world’s foremost scholars and global leaders of health, well-being and flourishing, particularly among women and children, she will employ her vast knowledge and experience in research, teaching and service to expertly guide the Ortner Center’s core vision of safe daughters, confident women, and strong society,” said Dean Bachman. “Professor Prah is the ideal person to shape the future of the Ortner Center.”

“It is with gratitude and appreciation that I thank Susan B. Sorenson for her leadership of the Ortner Center, especially for her important and impactful work in public health, epidemiology and prevention of violence, gun violence  and policy implications,” said Professor Prah. “I am deeply honored to be the next director of the Ortner Center, named for Evelyn Jacobs Ortner. I look forward to collaborating with faculty, staff and students to build on the critical mission and remarkable legacy of the Ortner Center to investigate the correlates and consequences of violence, abuse and control against women and girls as well as the conditions for women and girls to be healthy and flourish.”

“Jennifer has demonstrated exceptional leadership in each of the roles she has served,” said Dean Bachman. “She is known by those who have worked with her for her integrity and honesty, her wisdom and judgement and her commitment and care.”

“A collaborative and innovative leader and globally acclaimed social scientist, Jennifer’s deep knowledge and insightful and creative approach to health, well-being and flourishing will enrich and advance the Center’s mission,” Dean Bachman added.

“Our most profound mission for research at Penn,” said Interim Provost Beth A. Winkelstein, “is to make an impact on changing and improving people’s lives. This commitment is at the heart of my own work and the work of my colleagues across every discipline and department. Jennifer will be an ideal leader for this collaborative and interdisciplinary work in the years ahead, bringing together our faculty and students with policymakers, community leaders, and government agencies to help ensure the health and safety of women around the world.”

Antonia Villarruel, Margaret Simon Bond Dean of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania, voiced her support and enthusiasm for collaborating with Professor Prah.

“We look forward to continued collaboration with the Ortner Center and Jennifer on this important next chapter. Her approach to social problems and possibilities, integrating social science research and practice to find policy solutions, and transcending interdisciplinary boundaries, will create new opportunities for women and girls affected by violence,” she said.

Michele Barry, Drs. Ben & A. Jess Shenson Professor and Senior Associate Dean for Global Health at Stanford University, Founder of WomenLift Health and a leading advocate of women’s rights in global health said, “Jennifer’s groundbreaking research and scholarship has helped shape policy in the United States and around the world and provides an example of the imaginative examination and novel work necessary to create the conditions for women and girls to be healthy and flourish.”

“I have worked with Jennifer in a number of capacities and she is a trusted and ethical global leader with the highest standards of integrity, judgement and excellence in scholarship, teaching and service. She is a superb scholar and a wise and thoughtful leader, she is exceptional in every way,” Professor Barry continued.

“Women and girls deserve respect, they are entitled to their human rights, including rights to health, well-being and flourishing and to be free from violence, abuse and control, and much more, this is a matter of justice,” Jennifer said.

“Women’s rights and girls’ rights are human rights, when women and girls flourish, society flourishes. Jennifer’s remarkably deep and broad intellect and brilliant ability to articulate a compelling vision of justice and human rights, of the value of women’s and girls’ lives to humanity, and to defend it, are outstanding and inspiring,” said Mary T. Bassett, François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights and Director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University.

“In my past work with Jennifer, I have known her to embody intellectual rigor and independence, authentic curiosity and an ethical and collaborative commitment combined with unique insight, judgment and the integrity of a renowned global leader. She is an invaluable contributor and a trusted and caring colleague,” Professor Bassett added.

Professor Prah is the Amartya Sen Professor of Health Equity, Economics and Policy at the School of Social Policy & Practice and Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the Founder and Director of the Health Equity and Policy Lab (HEPL), a global research lab that employs a multi-level and mixed-methods approach to conduct quantitative and qualitative research on the equity and efficiency of health and public policies. HEPL works with over 65 collaborators worldwide to produce research and scholarship that informs policy to advance health equity and efficiency, and ultimately human well-being and flourishing, through a theoretically and empirically grounded approach to social and behavioral science research.

Professor Prah has published pioneering research and scholarship that is widely cited in the academic literature as well as by the United Nations, World Bank, World Health Organization, and United States Government. She has been Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator on awards from the National Institutes of Health, Fogarty International Center, Donaghue Foundation, Greenwall Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She has served on numerous international and national committees and expert reviews, including for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Public Health Association, Institute of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Fulbright Program, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and institutions in East Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. She is an elected member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a Hastings Center Fellow, a Greenwall Faculty Scholar, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Donaghue Investigator. Professor Prah received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California-Berkeley, master’s degrees from Oxford University, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and Yale University, and a doctoral degree from Harvard University.


About the Ortner Center

What We Believe
Girls and women around the globe live under the threat of violence. All can live more fully when they are not afraid or in danger.

What We Do
The Ortner Center is dedicated to increasing women’s well-being by identifying societal changes that might affect violence against women and girls, using the latest technological advances in qualitative and quantitative research, and developing the next generation of national and global leaders.

Who We Are
Illustrating Penn’s commitment to cross-School collaboration, the Center brings together multiple disciplines. By working together, we can make progress. The Center is named for Evelyn Jacobs Ortner, who established the Center through a gift to the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.


  • Jennifer J. Prah, PhD

    Jennifer J. Prah, PhD

    Amartya Sen Professor of Health Equity, Economics, and Policy


    office: 215.746.1330

    fax: 215.573.2099