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Release: Aug. 8, 2002

NOTE TO EDITORS: Risto Rautiainen can be reached at (319) 335-4887

UI researcher earns farm safety award

Risto Rautiainen, Ph.D., deputy director of the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health at the University of Iowa, has received an award from the National Institute for Farm Safety (NIFS) for an article he co-authored on farm safety programs.

The article, "A Systematic Review of Farm Safety Interventions," published in the May 2000 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, was selected by NIFS as an outstanding contribution to farm safety and health.

NIFS is the largest professional development organization in North America solely dedicated to the professional improvement of agricultural safety and health leaders. The award was announced at the organization's annual conference last June.

"This is an important study for what it says about the status of evidence for the effectiveness of farm safety interventions," said David Hard, Ph.D., president of NIFS. "Its primary conclusions should have the attention of all farm safety professionals."

Rautiainen and co-author Lisa DeRoo from the University of Washington Department of Epidemiology reviewed 25 studies of farm safety interventions and found many with inadequate evaluation designs that make it difficult to determine their success. They also found a notable lack of evidence that farm safety education programs are effective.

"Some of the education and intervention programs are long established without evidence that they are working," Rautiainen said. "It's difficult to gauge the 'bottom line' of whether farm injuries have been reduced, since farmers typically don't have workers' compensation insurance, and non-fatal injuries don't get reported. But the lack of evidence definitely indicates the need for better evaluative studies."

What is clear, according to Rautiainen, is that agriculture-related fatalities have not decreased in recent years, so a continued focus on prevention such as that of the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health is warranted.

The Great Plains Center is located in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health in the UI College of Public Health.