Hear updates from the CPH Faculty Policy Fellows on Jan. 17

Hear updates from Mary Charlton, Kelli Ryckman, Cara Hamann, Brandi Janssen, and Paul Gilbert as they highlight their projects with the College of Public Health’s Policy Fellow Program, offered through the Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy (IIPHRP).

This Spotlight Series event will take place Wednesday, Jan. 17, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in C217 CPHB.

Policy Fellow Spotlight is Jan. 17, 2018

Registration open for the 2018 ASPPH Annual Meeting

2018 ASPPH Meeting logoRegistration for the 2018 ASPPH Annual Meeting is open. The meeting, to be held March 7-9 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Va., features programming for academic public health leaders, faculty, staff, and students, current public health and global health concerns, and the future of academic public health.

The deadline to register is Friday, February 23, and the hotel reservation deadline is Friday, February 16.

For more information, visit: https://www.aspph.org/event/2018annualmeeting/


Funding for Special Interest Projects available through UI PRC

The Prevention Research Centers program office at the CDC has released its list of 2018 Special Interest Projects (SIPS). It is published as RFA-DP-18-002. It is anticipated that up to 5 awards will be made and will start September 30, 2018. These funding opportunities are available only to the Prevention Research Centers (PRCs) in the U.S.  The PI role is not limited to PRC directors, but can be any investigator at that institution – so, anyone at the University of Iowa may apply and the funds are passed through the UI PRC.

This RFA will provide supplemental funding to Prevention Research Centers to design, test, and disseminate effective applied public health prevention research strategies to include behavioral interventions, environmental or system-wide solutions, and strategies that address major causes of disease and disability. Research strategies align with public health priorities such as the Healthy People 2020 topic areas: Epilepsy; Cancer; and Oral Health.

Please let Heidi Haines (heidi-haines@uiowa.edu), Center Coordinator of the UI PRC, know if  you are interested in applying for any of these SIPs, or you have any questions.

Letter of Intent:  Due January 22, 2018

Proposal Due date: March 1, 2018

Details vary across SIPS, so please read carefully.

UI analysis finds more children are diagnosed with autism than previously thought

The number of children in the United States diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder may be significantly higher than previously thought, according to a new University of Iowa analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

A portrait of Assistant Professor Wei Bao of the Department of Epidemiology in the University of Iowa College of Public Health.
Wei Bao

The analysis of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that 2.4 percent of American children between the ages of 3 and 17—or 1 in 41—have been diagnosed with autism, higher than most earlier estimates of about 1.46 percent or 1 in 68 children. Wei Bao, assistant professor of epidemiology in the UI College of Public Health and corresponding author of the analysis, says the higher number shows the need for officials to think about reallocating health care resources to care for significantly more people with autism.

“Previous thinking about autism is that it is very rare, but this study tells us that it is no longer something that is very rare,” says Bao. “This should cause us to reconsider what our future priorities in research, service, and policy should be regarding children who have autism spectrum disorder. Clearly, we need more people to care for children with autism.”

The UI analysis used nationally representative data from the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey from 2014 to 2016, which collects data on a broad range of health topics through thousands of in-person household interviews each year. As part of the interview, CDC survey-takers ask respondents if the randomly sampled child living in the household has ever been diagnosed with autism.

Bao says the previous estimate of 1.46 percent was derived from the CDC’s Autism and Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM), which collects data from the health and special education records of 8-year-old children at 11 selected sites across the United States. The UI analysis was based on a nationally representative sample of children ages 3 to 17, and Bao cautions that these methodological differences in study design make direct comparisons between the two databases difficult.

The analysis also confirms earlier findings about gender and racial/ethnic disparity of autism in U.S. children, that it is much more frequent in boys (3.54 percent) than girls (1.22 percent), and less frequent in people of Hispanic origin (1.78 percent) than in non-Hispanic whites (2.71 percent) or non-Hispanic blacks (2.36 percent).

It found the highest prevalence of autism in Northeast states, at 3.05 percent. The Midwest was at 2.47 percent, the West at 2.24 percent, and the South at 2.21 percent. Bao speculates that rates are lower in the South and West because higher percentages of the population living in those states are Hispanic, a population that tends to have a lower prevalence of autism overall.

Bao says the limitation of the analysis is that the data is self-reported by the household respondent to the CDC survey-taker and is not subject to any third-party adjudication.

The analysis does not identify a cause for the increasing number of autism spectrum disorder cases. Bao says greater awareness among parents and health care providers might be the cause of some of the increase, but environmental and genetic factors likely are responsible for a large part of the gap. He points to previous studies—including one of his own—that show children are at greater risk of autism if their mothers have diabetes before or during pregnancy; since diabetes is often caused by obesity, the increase could be linked to the increasing weight of Americans.

“Autism is a highly complex disease caused by multiple genetic and environmental factors,” Bao says. “Maternal diabetes could be one of those factors, but it is not the only one. We need to find more about the underlying driving factors.”

The paper, “Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among US Children and Adolescents, 2014–2016,” was published in the January 2018 issue of JAMA. Its first author is Guifeng Xu, PhD candidate in the UI College of Public Health and graduate research assistant in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, and is co-authored by Buyun Liu, postdoctoral researcher in the College of Public Health, and Lane Strathearn, professor of pediatrics in the Carver College of Medicine.

This story originally appeared in Iowa Now.

Additional Media Coverage


Iowa Public Radio

Los Angleles Times (also published in the San Francisco Chronicle and New York Daily News)

U.S. News

CBS News

WTNH-TV, Hartford, Conn.


The Gazette


Researchers examine role of paid family leave in reducing nursing home use

elderly man with caneA new study from the University of Iowa and Syracuse University suggests that a more inclusive paid family leave (PFL) policy could be effective in reducing nursing home use among older adults.

Kanika Arora, assistant professor of health management and policy at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, and Douglas Wolf, professor of public administration and international affairs at Syracuse University, analyzed data collected in all 50 states between 1999 and 2008.

The authors estimate that across alternative state comparison groups, the passage of PFL consistently reduced nursing home occupancy in California by .5 to .7 percentage points among those aged 65 and older. This represents an 11 percent relative decline in nursing home utilization.

A portrait of Prof. Kanika Arora of the Department of Health Management and Policy at the University of Iowa college of Public Health.
Kanika Arora

According to Arora, this study is the first study to examine long-term care outcomes associated with a state-level policy on paid family leave and has demonstrated that the provision of this leave reduces nursing home use among older adults.

“While the current administration has proposed a federal paid family leave program, it is only focused on providing paid leave to families after the birth or adoption of a child,” Arora says. “The results of this study suggest that they should consider expanding the benefits of such a program to individuals with a seriously ill family member.”

The study will be published in the Winter 2018 edition of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. A preview version is available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pam.22038/full#references

MPH student Jeanette Deason is the first graduate of the U2G program

U2G student Jeanette DeasonLike many other undergraduate students, Jeanette Deason knew she wanted to go to graduate school, but wasn’t sure where. A statistics major at the University of Iowa, Deason envisioned eventually working in medical testing and clinical trials.

When she attended a meeting introducing the new Undergraduate to Graduate (U2G) program offered through the UI College of Public Health, the pieces started to fall into place.

“I didn’t know about public health at all, but when I heard about the type of careers and wide scope of options with this degree, it really sparked my interest,” Deason recalls.

The College of Public Health’s U2G program provides an opportunity for students interested in health sciences to earn both their undergraduate and graduate degrees in just five years. Deason chose to pursue the Master of Public Health (MPH) in quantitative methods. Other MPH options are available in community and behavioral health, epidemiology, occupational and environmental health, and policy. Master of Science degrees in epidemiology and industrial hygiene are also available.

U2G students begin taking graduate coursework in their fourth year, the same year they complete their undergraduate degree. They complete their graduate coursework in the fifth year.

Deason, who is originally from Granite Bay, California, says shifting from undergraduate to graduate-level classes was a relatively smooth transition.

“I think the biggest change was moving from the undergraduate mindset of ‘I’m taking this class because I have to to graduate,’ to ‘I’m genuinely interested in every class I have,’” she says.

Another benefit was the focus and personalization of graduate studies. “At the graduate level, the professors know your name and your interests,” she adds.

Deason is set to graduate this December, making her the first student to complete the U2G program. She’s currently looking for a job, ideally in a larger city. Right now, Denver or Chicago are on the top of her list.

“I want to be a biostatistician with clinical trials,” Deason says when asked about her dream job, adding that there are a lot of career choices available with her degrees, ranging from working for a pharmaceutical company to working in an academic setting. The latter is her preference. “An academic setting would offer more groundbreaking work and experience,” she says.

Learn more about the U2G program.

UI to study HPV vaccine disparities in rural areas

Natoshia Askelson
Natoshia Askelson

University of Iowa investigators are beginning a yearlong study to better understand why HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine coverage in rural areas of the state lags behind other adolescent immunizations.

The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute through the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, will be led by a team from Holden. Natoshia Askelson, assistant professor of community and behavioral health in the UI College of Public Health, is the project director. Other partners include the Iowa Primary Care Association, Iowa Department of Public Health, American Cancer Society, Iowa Cancer Consortium, and local public health agencies.

The HPV vaccine protects against a number of diseases and HPV-related cancers such as cervical cancer and oral cancer, but vaccination rates across Iowa are below the national average. According to the most recent data available, only 21 percent of 13- to 15-year-olds in Iowa had completed the HPV vaccination series in 2015. Federal health officials have a goal of 80 percent vaccination completion for adolescents by 2020.

The UI researchers will look at rural counties to explore the various factors that may influence uptake of the HPV vaccine in rural areas.

“This vaccine is nearly 100 percent effective at preventing cancer, so we want to make sure that all adolescents in Iowa have the opportunity to benefit from this vaccine when they are getting their other adolescent vaccines,” says Askelson. “Our work will identify how we can better support rural communities and clinics so that all children will have access to this vaccine.”

For additional information about this study, contact Natoshia Askelson (natoshia-askelson@uiowa.edu). Further information about the HPV vaccine is available online at https://idph.iowa.gov/immtb/immunization/hpv.