College hosts first Drowsy Driving Summit

poster for Drowsy Driving Summit held More than 60 people gathered Thursday at the University of Iowa College of Public Health for what was billed as the first-in-the-nation Drowsy Driving Summit. Researchers, transportation planners, and public officials are working on new ways to reduce drowsy driving, involved in 21 percent of fatal crashes nationwide.

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Encouraging the art of empathy

illustrations of young people with laptop, backpacksI AM FROM FRIED MOZZARELLA.



These are words written by Cedar Rapids, Iowa, middle school students who participated in an activity to get them talking about bullying and identity using art and expression. First, the students answered questions like: What is your favorite food? What is your favorite season? What is something cruel that has been said to you? Then, the students put the words “I am from” in front of their responses, creating poems to share with their peers.

The “I am from” poem helps students learn that we all share experiences of pain and joy and have something to learn about everyone. It is just one of many activities described in a new web toolkit launched in early 2016 called HEAR: Helping Educators Use Art to Reduce Bullying. The toolkit, aimed at teachers, youth group leaders, and others working with middle and high school students, is a collaboration between the University of Iowa College of Public Health, UI Injury Prevention Research Center (IPRC), and Working Group Theater based in Iowa City.

Emotions and Empathy

Focusing on the emotional side of bullying is exactly what researchers hope will help create empathy among students and a culture that does not accept bullying behavior.

“Current bullying prevention programs take a traditional approach, providing information in a classroom, much like math and reading are taught,” says Corinne Peek-Asa, director of the IPRC and principal investigator of the HEAR project. “However, teenage brains have a very active emotional center, and neurological research shows that the intellectual area of their brains — those that allow mature decision making — are not fully mature until teenagers reach their early 20’s.”

The HEAR web toolkit is an extension of the Out of Bounds project, a play about cyberbullying commissioned by Hancher and funded by the Iowa Arts Council. The Working Group Theater (WGT) began developing the play in 2013, around the same time that Marizen Ramirez, associate director for science at the IPRC, was conducting research on the effectiveness of anti-bullying policies in Iowa schools. The team sponsored a community event to gather feedback and inform the play’s development.

The WGT also interviewed local families, guidance counselors, and police officers about their experiences with bullying. The outcome: Out of Bounds toured 18 schools in eastern Iowa in 2013 and later won a prestigious award that helped support a national tour in early 2016.

illustration of a young woman talking on a cell phoneThe Moment of Choice

Jennifer Fawcett, one of the founders of WGT, said former friends of a young woman who was interviewed for the Out of Bounds project knew what they were supposed to do as bystanders in a bullying situation, but still chose not to do it.

“With the play, and then the toolkit activities, we wanted to pinpoint that moment of choice so students would think about what kind of choice they would make,” Fawcett says.

“The problem with an issue like bullying is that it can be reduced to slogans which are easy to say, but very hard to do,” Fawcett continues. “The exercises in the HEAR toolkit give students an opportunity to reflect on how bullying affects their lives. They get to literally practice different behaviors and explore how they could effectively change the climate of their schools.”

In 2015, both the play and the toolkit were tested with students in five Cedar Rapids middle schools as part of a service learning course funded by the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust and IPRC. In the course, led by IPRC researchers, 10 UI students first learned about the epidemiology of bullying and building community partnerships, and tried out several of the activities to use at the schools.

The UI students and several teachers then led the activities in participating classrooms. The UI students’ survey found that about 95 percent of the teachers at the middle schools had a positive or very positive impression of the play, and more than 90 percent felt their students were very or somewhat motivated to implement anti-bullying strategies after seeing it. The HEAR activities were also viewed favorably: “Teachers said that the activities encouraged reflection on bullying and allowed the students to creatively share their thoughts,” says Ramirez.

Creating a Positive Environment

Some HEAR activities focus on expressive and reflective writing: an anti-bullying poster, a letter to a bullying victim and perpetrator, and an anti-bullying pledge. Others center on drama, like acting out a real-life bullying situation and exploring ways to handle the conflict.

And with cyberbullying on the rise, other activities have students develop an anti-bullying Twitter campaign or draw a “selfie” of themselves—and then have their peers provide positive comments on it. Students thus have the opportunity to practice using positive language to change the impact of bullying.

“Bullying is a complicated issue, and this toolkit is one way we can encourage empathy and help youth create a positive environment,” says Peek-Asa.

The web toolkit is free and available at

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of InSight

IPRC receives Safe States President’s Award

The University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center (IPRC) was recently honored with the 2016 Safe States Alliance President’s Award. This award recognizes a member who has been instrumental in assisting the Safe States Alliance president in achieving the organizational priorities of the alliance.

In presenting the award, Binnie LeHew, president of the Safe States Alliance, said all the IPRC staff members have been “critical to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s ability to build our injury and violence prevention program.” She added, “There have been many instances in which they came through when I was looking for a resource, help to finish a project, or brainstorm ideas for our national violence and injury prevention work.”

Lisa Roth, deputy director of the IPRC, accepted the award on behalf of the center.

The IPRC is based in the UI College of Public Health and is directed by Corinne Peek-Asa. The Safe States Alliance is a national non-profit organization and professional association whose mission is to strengthen the practice of injury and violence prevention.

From left: Lisa Roth, Carri Casteel, John Lundell, Binnie LeHew, Corinne Peek-Asa, and Marizen Ramirez
From left: Lisa Roth, Carri Casteel, John Lundell, Binnie LeHew, Corinne Peek-Asa, and Marizen Ramirez

IPRC research project proposals due Feb. 26

The University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center (UI IPRC) is seeking project ideas for potential inclusion in our 2017- 2021 funding cycle. Originally funded in 1990, the UI IPRC is excited to have the opportunity to develop a new five year program of research activities.  Approved research projects selected by this solicitation will begin on or after September 1, 2017.

We are soliciting proposals for projects ranging from $75,000 to $150,000 (direct and indirect costs) per year for two to three years in duration. Our goal is to identify state-of-the-art injury prevention projects that will evolve into larger RO1-level projects and that yield results worthy of publication in a peer-reviewed journal.  It is anticipated that our Center’s application will contain up to three projects of this size in any given year, for an anticipated total of four to six projects funded throughout the five-year funding cycle.

Projects that address the following will receive priority:

  • Addresses one of the CDC Injury Research Priorities, which are: motor vehicle injury, prescription drug overdose; child abuse and neglect; older adult falls; sexual violence; and, youth sports concussion.
  • Aligns with the CDC Research Agenda (
  • Addresses primary prevention
  • Focuses on translation, dissemination or policy
  • Has intervention focus at the community level
  • Uses interdisciplinary teams

Investigators whose proposals are selected for further development will receive, as desired, assistance from the UI IPRC to prepare the proposal in the form of:  mentoring; review/input by internal and/or external experts; administrative assistance; networking to develop interdisciplinary teams; biostatistics and data analysis consultation. The Center’s Executive Committee will be responsible for selecting the projects for inclusion in our competitive renewal application. The projects will be selected on the basis of their scientific merit, potential impact, and relevance to the goals of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Structured pre-proposals will be due February 26, 2016.  Investigators will be notified if they have been selected for further development by March 11.  We anticipate that full proposals will be due in July, 2016.  Pre-proposals should be submitted to Lisa Roth at

If you have a project that you would like considered for inclusion in our competitive renewal, please respond to the attached structured pre-proposal guidelines. Your submission must be received no later than February 26, 2016.  You are strongly encouraged to contact Corinne Peek-Asa at 319-335-4895 or Deputy Director Lisa Roth at 319-359-9444 to discuss your proposal prior to submission.


Researchers study post-concussion depression, anxiety in college athletes

Head injuries and concussions resulting from contact sports are frequently in the news. Reports show that every year, college athletes sustain more than 12,500 injuries while participating in NCAA-sponsored sports. Studies indicate that in addition to the physical ramifications of such injuries, there can also be negative psychological consequences, such as depression and anxiety.

To truly understand the effect of concussions, however, it is important to have baseline data collected before the injury for comparison. A team of researchers that included investigators from the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center gathered pre-injury information on depression and anxiety from male and female Division I collegiate athletes at two Big Ten Conference universities. The teams included men’s football, wresting, basketball, and baseball, and women’s basketball, softball, soccer, field hockey, and volleyball from the 2007-08 through the 2011-12 seasons.

The researchers, led by Jingzhen Yang from the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, followed participating athletes using the Sports Injury Monitoring System (SIMS), an injury surveillance database. When an injury was reported, athletes completed multiple follow-up surveys until they were cleared to return to play. The investigators analyzed baseline and one-week post injury data for 71 concussions.

About three-quarters of the concussions were sustained by male athletes, and over half involved football players. About one-fifth of concussed athletes reported symptoms of depression post-injury, while one-third said they felt anxious. Only about 14 percent reported both. Interestingly, while those reporting some depression symptoms at baseline were more likely to experience both depression and anxiety following the concussion, those who were anxious beforehand were not more likely to be depressed and anxious post-injury.

The researchers concluded experiencing symptoms of depression before an injury was the strongest predictor of post-concussion depression. They maintain their findings are significant in that they reveal “the need and importance for baseline screening to identify athletes who are at high risk for post-concussion psychological symptoms.” Such screening would also help health professionals identify athletes with newly emerging post-injury symptoms. Results of the study were recently published in the journal Development Neuropsychology.

According to Yang, “In deciding when a player should return to activity following a head injury, it is important to be able to determine which symptoms are associated with psycho-social factors, and which are associated with damage to the brain cells. This type of research begins to help us understand these two sets of symptoms.”

The research team also included Corinne Peek-Asa and James C. Torner from the Injury Prevention Research Center based in the University of Iowa College of Public Health and Tracey Covassin from Michigan State University.

The research was supported by the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center and funded by grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

UI study looks at risk factors for ATV-related child fatalities

A new study by University of Iowa researchers used national data to examine the major contributors to all-terrain vehicle (ATV)-related deaths among different age groups of children. The research team, which included Karisa Harland from the Injury Prevention Research Center based in the College of Public Health, looked at ATV-related deaths from 1985 to 2009 using data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The investigators found that adult-sized ATVs were involved in 95% of fatalities among victims younger than the recommended age for these machines (under 16 years of age). Over the study period, 12- to 15-year-old children accounted for more than half of all pediatric ATV-related fatalities.

The proportion of youth riding on the road increased with age, as did the proportion of collisions with other vehicles. Older teens had the highest proportions of roadway fatalities (72%) and collision events (63%), and 19% of their crashes involved alcohol.

Head injuries occurred in 63% of victims (the major determinant being roadway riding), and helmets reduced the likelihood of head injury among fatal crash victims by 58%. For all age groups, the highest proportion of head injuries was among passenger victims.

Because the study revealed both similarities and differences between pediatric age groups in the contribution of known risk factors to ATV-related deaths, the researchers recommend targeting injury prevention approaches to specific age ranges.

The article appeared online Nov. 24 in the journal Pediatrics.

>> Read a CBS News story about the study.