Renewed funding for UI Prevention Research Center expands focus on health disparities in rural communities

Published on October 11, 2019

The University of Iowa has been awarded a $3.75 million grant over five years to conduct applied public health prevention research in underserved communities in Iowa, as well as the neighboring states of Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas.

A portrait of University of Iowa College of Public Health Dean Edith Parker.
Edith Parker

The UI Prevention Research Center, based in the College of Public Health, is one of 25 such academic programs nationwide to receive funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Directed by Edith Parker, dean of the College of Public Health and professor of community and behavioral health, the center focuses on health disparities in rural areas.

“Rural Americans live with a number of factors that can adversely affect their health, such as higher rates of poverty, geographic obstacles to health care, less access to health care providers, and an aging population” says Parker. “The research taking place in our center, focusing on leveraging local capacity and building effective partnerships, is aimed at identifying the most promising interventions and public health promotion programs for people living in rural communities.”

The UI Prevention Research Center was established in 2002 and has been a national leader in translating and implementing evidence-based programs to improve health, particularly in the areas of nutrition, physical activity, and aging. The center also provides training and technical assistance to communities and the public health workforce, with a focus on identifying and addressing social determinants of health.

Since 2013, a core research initiative of the center has been Active Ottumwa, a partnership with the southeast Iowa city of Ottumwa and numerous local organizations to promote healthy lifestyles by creating and encouraging more research-tested physical activity opportunities for adults.

With the renewed federal funding of the center, Active Ottumwa will transition into Active Iowa, which will extend to communities across Iowa and, ultimately, be disseminated to local public health departments and community-based organizations in Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas. Natoshia Askelson, assistant professor of community and behavioral health, will direct Active Iowa.

More about the UI Prevention Research Center is available at