New report examines elder abuse in Iowa

older adult woman sitting in chairA new University of Iowa study finds that older Iowans who experience some form of abuse have little chance of experiencing any resolution. While most older Iowans are doing well, a large and growing number of Iowans over the age of 65 have become vulnerable, says researcher Brian Kaskie, associate professor of health management and policy at the University of Iowa College of Public Health.

The report, The Elder Abuse Pathway in East Central Iowa, was co-authored by Kaskie and Leonard Sandler, clinical professor of law and director of the Law and Policy Action Clinic at the University of Iowa College of Law.

Older persons face a number of age-related challenges, including diminishing cognitive capacity, increasing physical frailty, and social isolation, which can lead to dependence on others. The researchers identified five different kinds of abuse, exploitation, or neglect that can be experienced by older adults: neglect, self-neglect, financial exploitation, physical and psychological abuse, and sexual abuse and personal degradation.

Researchers examined activities concerning elder abuse in an area of east central Iowa covering more than 1,000 square miles and two metropolitan areas with a population of more than 300,000. To gather their data, the team held a series of meetings with public agents involved with addressing elder abuse. They also conducted interviews, compiled information from law enforcement, and reviewed laws, regulations, and other data.

The researchers found that prosecution of elder abuse is a relatively rare occurrence, meaning that abusers often go unpunished. According to Kaskie, much more could be done to protect older Iowans and prosecute alleged cases.

“Issues pertaining to older adults just do not seem to compete well among the many other priorities of health, law enforcement, and public health agencies,” Kaskie says “For example, while they are by no means sufficient, public efforts to raise awareness of child abuse seem to be much more developed, and there are comparatively higher amounts of public resources being directed to the identification and investigation of child abuse.”

Despite these many challenges, Kaskie thinks the state of Iowa is poised to take several steps forward in the coming year.

“The issue of elder abuse has become a top priority for many citizen based groups and the network of aging service providers,” he says. “There also have been some signs that the legislature and governor’s office may advance this agenda in 2019.”

Recommendations from the report include: increased funding for state and county attorneys to prosecute elder abuse; involving social workers and therapists in the investigative process; funding for individuals and organizations who can serve as guardians for elders; and public awareness campaigns.

“I am hopeful that the citizens of Iowa and the persons who represent them in our government come to see this as an important bi-partisan issue,” Kaskie says. “The number of older Iowans is not getting any smaller and elder abuse is something that is happening in all corners of the state.”

A PDF of the report is available.


UI study finds existing vaccine can treat dogs infected with leishmaniasis

portrait of Christine Petersen
Christine Petersen

A vaccine used to prevent dogs from contracting the deadly, parasitic disease canine leishmaniasis also can be used to treat currently infected dogs, found Morris Animal Foundation-funded researchers at the University of Iowa, providing a new avenue of treatment for millions of infected dogs globally.

Canine leishmaniosis (CanL) is a major zoonotic disease enzootic in more than 70 countries and has recently emerged in the United States. CanL also is a concern in countries where imported disease creates a veterinary and public health problem.

The study, recently published in the journal Vaccine, provided the first clinical trial of the vaccine LeishTec™ in infected dogs. The vaccine is commercially available in Brazil, and is frequently prescribed by veterinarians there, though it had never been tested to see if it was not only safe but could fight the disease in already infected dogs.

“Too many dogs die every year because of this terrible disease, and we’ve figured out all the things that could go wrong with the body during disease. I wanted to start coming up with tools to make things go right,” said Dr. Christine Petersen, University of Iowa, Associate Professor of Epidemiology. “Usually vaccines prevent infections, but some, like the rabies post-exposure prophylactic vaccine, can be used after infection. We were happy to prove this was the case with LeishTec.”

Read the full press release…

Additional Media Coverage

Leishmaniosis vaccine study hailed potential ‘game changer’ (International Animal Health Journal)

Leishmaniasis vaccine offers hope for treatment (VNonline)

Hernandez, Ward receive biostatistics scholarships

Graduate students Helin Hernandez (left) and Caitlin Ward (right) with Professor Jake Oleson
Graduate students Helin Hernandez (left) and Caitlin Ward (right) with Professor Jacob Oleson

Department of Biostatistics graduate students Helin Hernandez and Caitlin Ward are the 2018 recipients of the Kathryn M. Chaloner Memorial Scholarship and the Leon F. Burmeister Memorial Scholarship, respectively.

Hernandez will receive her MS in biostatistics this semester and will begin the PhD program in January. She is originally from Van Nuys, Calif.

Ward is from Iowa City, Iowa, and is currently a PhD student. She earned her MS in the spring of 2018.

Jacob Oleson, professor of biostatistics, is the faculty advisor for Hernandez and a co-advisor for Ward.

The Kathryn M. Chaloner Memorial Scholarship was established in honor of Dr. Chaloner’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness in the field of biostatistics. Chaloner served as professor and head of the University of Iowa Department of Biostatistics for 12 years.

The Leon F. Burmeister Memorial Scholarship was established to support an exceptional graduate student in the Department of Biostatistics, with preference given to students from the state of Iowa. Dr. Burmeister was a professor of biostatistics with a career at the University of Iowa spanning 42 years.

Study looks at prevalence, treatment patterns of autism spectrum disorder

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

A new study from researchers at the University of Iowa shows that while autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is relatively prevalent among U.S. children aged 3-17 years, a large number of them don’t receive any type of treatment. The study was published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics.

The researchers looked at data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health and found that 2.8% of the 43,032 children in the survey had been diagnosed with ASD and 2.5% currently had ASD. Among the children with current ASD, 29.5% never received either behavioral or medication treatments.

Wei Bao, corresponding author of the paper and assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, says that understanding who does not receive treatment for ASD can help researchers identify and eliminate barriers to treatment.

“ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder with substantial lifetime burden to the individuals and families,” Bao says. “Although the causes of ASD remain unclear, there are some evidence-based therapies to treat the symptoms of ASD. Efforts should be made to ensure that children with ASD receive appropriate treatment, the earlier the better.”

According to Bao, understanding the status of ASD is just a start. “As a next step, we want to know what factors are related to the risk of ASD,” he says. “We are particularly interested in modifiable risk factors during pregnancy or in early life that may help figure out a way to reduce or prevent ASD in the future.”

The study, “Prevalence and Treatment Patterns of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the United States, 2016”, was first-authored by Guifeng Xu and co-authored by Lane Strathearn, Buyun Liu, Matthew O’Brien, Todd G. Kopelman, Jing Zhu, and Linda G. Snetselaar, all from the University of Iowa.

The study is available online at

Additional Media Coverage

Another study finds autism in 1 in 40 children (UPI)

Another Tally Puts Autism Cases at 1 in 40 (U.S. News)

National surveys estimate U.S. autism prevalence at 1 in 40 (Spectrum)


Petersen contributes to new veterinary infection control and biosecurity guidelines

Christine Petersen

New guidelines published this month provide veterinary professionals with information and resources to prevent the spread of disease in their practices and implement protocols that protect both animal and human health.

Christine Petersen, associate professor of epidemiology in the University of Iowa College of Public Health, served as a member of a national task force of experts that developed the guidelines on behalf of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).

The 2018 AAHA Infection Control, Prevention, and Biosecurity Guidelines offer practical standard operating procedures (SOPs) to guide veterinary practices in areas such as cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, identifying high-risk patients to prevent their entry into the waiting area, and managing contagious patients in isolation.

Petersen says the new veterinary guidelines complement the growing emphasis in human medicine on infection control to prevent hospital-acquired infections (HAIs).

“These recommendations are intended to protect both animal and human health within veterinary practice,” says Petersen. “Effective infection prevention, control, and biosecurity practices in veterinary medicine help check the spread of drug-resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant staphylococci and the reduce potential exposure of pet owners and veterinary staff to zoonotic diseases, such as leptospirosis, rabies, and salmonellosis.”

The new guidelines are published in the November/December issue of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association and are available online at