According to the U.S. Census, approximately one-third of Iowa’s population lives in rural areas. Additionally, the Office of Management and Budget considers 17 of 30 defined statistical areas in Iowa to be micropolitan or rural.
Our unique location drives our work. We consider “rural” to be a context, a social determinant, a culture, and a skill set. We have a track record of research and publications in this strategic area. We are shaping scholarship by critically engaging with the definition of rurality, promoting rural health through novel approaches, and changing the face of what people view as rural contexts. Our students graduate with a keen understanding of public health in rural settings.
One key question we ask in this work is: How can evidence-based interventions be adapted to rural contexts, or can they be?
Here are some of the rural-health-related projects our faculty are currently engaged in:
Rima Afifi & Natoshia Askelson
The Active Iowa research program is part of the Prevention Research Center on Rural Health at the CPH. This project will explore mechanisms to disseminate an evidence-based physical activity intervention to several rural counties in Iowa working with health departments and other community organizations. This project builds on the success of Active Ottumwa that increased the physical activity of residents of Ottumwa, Iowa. The project is guided by a statewide advisory board of relevant stakeholders.
Mental Health of Farming Communities
Farmers have rates of suicide about twice the national average. This project is currently in the development phase and aims to understand stressors, as well as coping strategies. This understanding could lead to the development of approaches and tools to manage stress and enhance wellbeing.
Translation of an Evidence-Based Teen Dating Violence Prevention Program into Rural Community-Based Prevention Network
This is one of the project of the Injury Prevention Research Center at the CPH, and will begin in 2021. The project aims at preventing TDV through implementation of the Start Strong intervention in middle schools. The project is an implementation science research project and will measure the fidelity and adaptation of Start Strong, and measure the effectiveness of Start Strong in changing school population-level TDV knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and policies following regional coalition implementation in Iowa middle schools.
Building a Bridge between Clinical and Community Care
Post diagnosis support of persons with dementia and their families – Major Goal: To implement and evaluate family-centered post diagnostic intervention that link newly diagnosed individuals and families to community resources, ensure continuous social support, and minimize negative consequences of dementia on individuals diagnosed and their families.
Familial and Community-Based Social Networks of Older Adults in Rural Iowa
Major Goal: To understand the extent of overlap between family- and community-based social support networks of older adults living in a rural Iowa community and elucidate the roles these networks play in older adults’ daily lives to support their independent living. Information from this study can guide the development of community-based support programs for older individuals as well as for the families.
Improving Nutrition in Rural School Lunchrooms
In collaboration with the Iowa Department of Education, we are working with rural schools to improve the school lunchroom environment and encourage fruit and vegetable consumption. We use principles of behavioral economics to modify lunchrooms to make healthy choices easier to make for students.
HPV Vaccination Uptake in Rural Areas
As part of an NIH-funded grant, we are exploring barriers to the uptake of the HPV vaccine in rural areas. We have used a multi-method approach including site visits, surveys (health care providers, school nurses, youth-serving organizations, and faith-based organizations) and interviews (clinic managers, dentists, and pharmacists).
West Liberty Community Health Survey
Under the guidance of the Coalición de West Liberty, a community-academic partnership, Dr. Gilbert designed and led a community survey to identify health-related strengths and needs in Iowa’s first majority-Latino rural town. Data collection took place in 2016, and analyses were completed in 2017. A summary report is available in English or Spanish. The project generated data that was not available otherwise and may serve as a model for other rural communities.
Worksite Volunteerism Study
This pilot study began an exploration of the role that rural worksites might play in encouraging employees to engage in volunteerism. By exposing adults to this activity during their working years, they may be more likely to continue it after retirement and experience the already documented health benefits. The pilot study involved an online survey of employers in NE Iowa and was conducted in collaboration with the NE Iowa Resource Conservation & Development Council.