Ashida named IIPHRP Policy Fellow

A portrait of Prof. Sato Ashida of the Department of Community and Behavioral Health at the University of Iowa College of Public Health.
Sato Ashida

The Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy (IIPHRP) has selected Sato Ashida, UI associate professor of community and behavioral health, as a 2018-2019 Policy Fellow.

The year-long Policy Fellow Program creates opportunities for primary faculty to enhance their skills for translating public health research into practice and policy. Each Policy Fellow develops and implements a project focused on a critical public health topic. Ashida’s project will bring key stakeholders together to develop policy to improve the delivery of emergency management services to older Iowans.

Older adults in the community are especially vulnerable to negative health outcomes during and after disasters. If various agencies involved in emergency management had pertinent information provided by and about older Iowans, outcomes of disaster response and recovery processes conducted by state agencies and local emergency management services could be vastly improved. However, there are barriers to gathering and sharing information about individual residents across agencies and institutions.

Ashida previously developed an online program called PrepWise that allows older adults to establish personalized emergency and disaster plans. The plans include information about medical care and medication needs, functional limitations, cognitive difficulties, emergency support network members, service animals, and other important health needs. Now, Ashida’s goal is to develop policy that will allow state and local agencies to access information pertinent to emergency management that PrepWise participants consent to share with agencies in order to enhance the delivery of emergency services to older Iowans.

Her first step will be to establish a core group comprised of state agencies as well as county experts in emergency management. This group will review efforts in other states and explore dynamics needed to implement a statewide policy that allows incorporating PrepWise into existing disaster management infrastructure.  Once policy recommendations are developed and vetted by this broad group, additional stakeholders will be identified and involved in expanding awareness and dissemination of this potentially life-saving tool.

Learn more about the IIPHRP Policy Fellow Program at

Healthy LifeStars program challenges childhood obesity in Iowa

An innovative program that tackles childhood obesity — the number one health problem for children — will soon be making its debut in Iowa. Aimed at elementary-age kids, the LifeStar Challenge motivates and teaches children how to live active, healthy lives now and in the future.

The program is being implemented through a partnership between Healthy LifeStars and the Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy based in the University of Iowa College of Public Health. Healthy LifeStars is a national non-profit organization dedicated to ending childhood obesity through education, awareness, and changed habits to influence future generations of healthy children.

The Iowa Healthy LifeStars program will be offered at no charge, thanks to a gift from the Stead Family Foundation and Jerre and Mary Joy Stead, two former Iowans who are among the most generous donors to the University of Iowa.

Nationally, one in three children is overweight or obese. Healthy LifeStars was founded in 2003 to address childhood obesity and has reached over 35,000 kids in Arizona and Colorado. In 2018, it launched programs in Iowa and Ohio and has the goal of growing nationwide.

“We’re excited to introduce this program in Iowa and expand it statewide,” says Vickie Miene, interim director of the Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy (IIPHRP) and director of the Iowa Healthy LifeStars program. “Our goal is to enroll 5,400 kids in the first three years in both urban and rural locations.”

The LifeStar Challenge will begin in Iowa this fall with several sites in the Iowa City area. The program will be delivered in before- and after-school programs and will be led in part by University of Iowa student coaches

“We will build a network of UI student volunteers who will be an integral part of getting this program off the ground in Iowa,” Miene explains. “UI students from a variety of majors have already expressed interest in volunteering as LifeStars coaches and will contribute ideas to the program through a UI student advisory council. In addition, UI students will contribute to social media articles and healthy lifestyle campaigns associated with the program.”

IIPHRP will partner with additional schools, youth-serving organizations, and health initiatives to continue to grow the program across the state.

The LifeStar Challenge teaches kids and their families the three Healthy Life Habits: setting personal health goals, taking part in vigorous physical activity every day, and eating the right foods in the right amounts. Each child receives a lanyard and chain to display reward tokens. Kids earn a colorful plastic star every time they achieve one of the goals they set for themselves. Everything organizers need to get started is included in a simple kit with additional information online.

“All of the tools are available on-line and the program is flexible, so it’s easy to implement in a variety of settings,” says Miene.

For more information about the program, visit

‘Assessing Rural Futures’ takes place Oct. 8

Assessing Rural Futures Using the Comprehensive Wealth Framework

Join a conversation about rural economies and sustainability! This seminar will define rural wealth and will share a framework to assess rural development. Lunch is provided!

Monday, Oct. 8
12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
Ellig Classroom (N120 CPHB)

Guest speakers:

Visiting Scholar Matt Fannin, PhD
William H. Alexander Professor and J. Nelson Fairbanks Professor of Rural and Community Development Economics Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness at Louisiana State University and the LSU AgCenter

Visiting Scholar Thomas G. Johnson, PhD
Professor Emeritus of Agricultural and Applied Economics, and Public Affairs at the University of Missouri

This spotlight is hosted by the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) and the Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy (IIPHRP).

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the College of Public Health in advance at (319) 384-1500.

Iowa Summit on Underage Drinking is Sept. 13

Iowa Summit: Underage Drinking & Social Host Laws

September 13, 2018
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Animal Rescue League, 5452 N.E. 22nd St, Des Moines, IA 50313


How do we successfully prevent underage drinking?

Do social host laws make a difference?

What other ideas do you have to help prevent underage drinking?

Be part of the conversation.  Join us for a community summit to learn the latest research on Iowa’s social host laws and how to impact underage drinking.
Register here by September 6, 2018

(Or use this link in browser: )


  • Opening remarks
  • Presentation of research project and findings
    • Paul Gilbert, PhD, Assistant Professor at University of Iowa, Policy Fellow with the University of Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy
  • Panel of expert commentary
    • Angie Asa-Lovstad, Alliance of Coalitions for Change
    • Julie Hibben, Iowa Department of Public Health
    • Greg Graver, Jones County Sheriff
  • Working lunch (lunch is provided)
    • Develop next steps related to alcohol policy and practice

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the College of Public Health in advance at (319) 384-1500.

Janssen to lead collaboratory focusing on overdose prevention in Iowa

Portrait of Brandi Janssen, clinical associate professor in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Iowa College of Public Health.
Brandi Janssen

Brandi Janssen, CPH clinical assistant professor of occupational and environmental health, has been selected by the Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy (IIPHRP) to establish a new collaboratory that will gather data to help prevent drug overdoses in Iowa.

A collaboratory is a creative group process designed to solve complex problems and brings together collaborators from different backgrounds and disciplines to expand the scope, scale, and impact of critical public health research. Janssen’s team will collaborate on a project titled “Iowa Substance Use Data Set: Preventing Overdoes Through Actionable Data.” The project is intended to be a first step toward developing the Iowa Substance Use Data Set, a multi-stream, multi-sourced, comprehensive data warehouse for partners, and will include information directly from substance users.

“This data base will be different from existing substance use information sources in that its focus is on timeliness, local relevance, and integration of multiple data sets,” Janssen explains. “The team hopes to design a data warehouse infrastructure to manage storing, updating, and sharing pertinent data. In addition, we will identify the data needs of providers and stakeholders regarding substance misuse and abuse and will design the data structure and applications to accommodate those needs.”

In addition to Janssen, the collaborators include:

  • Stephan Arndt, PhD, Professor, Carver College of Medicine, Psychiatry; College of Public Health, Biostatistics; Director, Iowa Consortium for Substance Abuse Research and Evaluation
  • Ryan Carnahan, PharmD, CPH, Associate Professor, Epidemiology
  • Heath Davis, MS ITIL, Lead Application Developer, Bio-Medical Informatics, Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, Carver College of Medicine
  • Juan Pablo Hourcade, PhD, Associate Professor, CLAS, Computer Science
  • Boyd Knosp, MS, Associate Dean for Information Technology, Carver College of Medicine. Associate Director for Biomedical Informatics Operations, Institute for Clinical and Translational Science
  • Anna Merrill, PhD, DABCC, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology, Carver College of Medicine; Clinical Chemist, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Iowa City VA Health Care System, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine
  • Jennifer Sánchez, PhD, CRC, Assistant Professor, CLAS, College of Education, Rehabilitation and Counselor Education

Read more about the IIPHRP collaboratories and their work.

Global Rural Health Case Competition winners announced

Armed with well-researched plans, information-packed slides, and seamless teamwork, six student teams competed for top honors and cash prizes in the inaugural Global Rural Health Case Competition held April 4 at the College of Public Health.

The teams were given a case centered on the ongoing power crisis in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Their mission: to present feasible, sustainable solutions to restore health, hope, and resiliency to Puerto Rico. The teams were tasked with addressing multiple systems such as power, water, health, and communications as well as ideas around infrastructure, policy, and sustainability to prevent this type of breakdown in the future. The students had about two weeks to research and develop their proposals with limited guidance from a faculty mentor.

On competition day, each team had 15 minutes to present their recommendations, followed by 10 minutes of questions from a panel of five judges. The teams were made up of graduate students from a variety of academic backgrounds.

“We had students from 14 different disciplines representing five colleges across the university,” says Vickie Miene, interim director of the Institute of Public Health Research and Policy. “It was really exciting to see the collaboration with public health. All of the teams did an outstanding job.”

Bringing the experience full circle, the winning team has announced that they will donate their winnings totaling $2,500 to recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.

The top three teams were:

1st place – Aequitas 

  • Monisa Saravanan, Community and Behavioral Health
  • Elijah Olivas, Community and Behavioral Health
  • Matthew Poch, Occupational and Environmental Health
  • Anthony Emigh, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Kevin Rivera, Medicine

2rd place – The Iowinners 

  • Kayla Faust, Occupational and Environmental Health
  • Yanni Liang, Occupational and Environmental Health
  • Ben Ertl, Industrial Engineering; Finance
  • Kylor Sorenson, Health Management and Policy; Business Administration
  • Kirsten Carew, Medicine; Business Administration

 3nd place – GlobalVill 

  • Whitney Bash-Brooks, Community and Behavioral Health
  • Redwan Bin Abdul Baten, Health Management and Policy
  • Catherine Chioreso, Epidemiology
  • Arwin Shrestha, Ophthalmology; Cellular Engineering

The case competition was organized by the Institute of Public Health Research and Policy and the College of Public Health’s Global Public Health Initiative. Funding for the case competition was generously provided by John Deere and Dale and Linda Baker.

If you would like to view the case intervention presentations, they can be accessed at UICapture. The case study is available for download.

Speaker to address maternal mental health disparities

Maternal Mental Health Disparities and Patient Engagement in Research

Karen Tabb Dina, PhD
Assistant Professor
University of Illinois School of Social Work

Thursday, April 12
3:30-4:30 pm

Abstract: Women’s mental health during the perinatal period is critically important.  Currently there are no best practices for screening for depression and addressing mental health needs in public health clinics. Clinic staff are often responsible for performing depression screening, however, few studies examine staff perceptions on feasibility and acceptability of using perinatal screening for mood disorders in ethnically diverse public health clinics. We conducted focus group interviews with public health staff (n=25) to learn how a multidisciplinary clinical staff addresses mental health in their clinic. Most participants identified multiple barriers to universal depression screening in a public health clinic, but at the same time found value in the practice of screening low-income women for depression. The findings from the focus group study established the foundation for a university-community partnership to improve maternal health outcomes at the county level in Illinois. The partnership has grown into a local initiative and is now in the early stages of developing a patient centered outcomes research community.

Sponsored by the Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy and the Iowa Perinatal Health Research Collaborative

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the College of Public Health in advance at 319-384-1500.