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Assistant Director
Corporate and Foundation Relations
UI Foundation News
500 Levitt Center for University Advancement
Iowa City IA 52242
Phone: (319) 335-3305 or (800) 648-6973

Release: March 30, 2001

Wellmark Foundation funds UI health initiatives

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Foundation has received two grants, totaling more than $125,000, from the Wellmark Foundation of Des Moines to fund two Midwest health initiatives. A third Wellmark Foundation grant in the amount of $50,600 will be implemented through the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) in partnership with the Iowa Lions Foundation. All three projects are designed to benefit underserved populations in Iowa and South Dakota.

The first grant, which totals $85,396, addresses the challenges of substance-abuse disorders among pregnant women and American Indian populations. In this project, the UI College of Education and the College of Medicine will partner with health care professionals at the University of South Dakota to develop video and distance-learning technologies to train health care providers to detect substance abuse and prevent it from developing into chronic health problems.

The second grant, for $39,403, involves three Iowa cities -- Carroll, Oskaloosa and Ottumwa -- in a community-based, end-of-life care initiative. Researchers in the UI College of Public Health will determine whether a community-wide approach to meeting end-of-life needs of the elderly and terminally ill can become a model for every Iowa community.

A third Wellmark Foundation grant will provide a series of free vision and hearing screenings for Iowa children ages 6 months to 4 years. The three-year project links with an international service organization, the Lions Clubs International, to train thousands of club member volunteers throughout Iowa to assist UIHC health professionals with the statewide screenings. The grant, which provides funding for the first year of the project, also provides screening equipment, training materials and funding to increase awareness of the project. The Lions Club contributed $119,820 for the first year and $131,000 for the second and third years of the project.

"These grants seek to increase awareness and improve the delivery of health care for people of all ages," said Dr. James A. Merchant, dean of the UI College of Public Health, adding that this latest support affirms the Wellmark Foundation’s mission to improve the health of Iowans through cooperative ventures. "The Wellmark Foundation has made tremendous commitments to Iowans and others to improve the quality of care they receive."

Sheila Riggs, executive director of the Wellmark Foundation, said, "The grants enable us to enhance and strengthen our commitment to improving health in Iowa and South Dakota through our longtime healthcare relationship with the UI."

The Wellmark Foundation has generously supported numerous health improvement areas of the UI. These grants to the UI Foundation are part of the university’s planned comprehensive campaign to advance the UI’s strategic goals for the years 2000-2005. The campaign, which is in its early stages and for which no final dollar goal has been established, will be conducted under the guidance of the UI Foundation and will raise funds to substantially increase the number of UI merit- and need-based scholarships, as well as the number of endowed faculty chairs and professorships; support eight new educational and research facilities; fund outreach and service programs to benefit individuals, families, and communities throughout the state; build the UI’s endowment; and launch new initiatives in the arts, sciences, business, health care and other fields.

The UI Foundation is the preferred channel for private contributions to all areas of the university. Foundation staff work with alumni and friends to generate funds for scholarships, professorships, facilities improvements, equipment purchases, research and other UI initiatives.