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Release: Feb. 18, 2002

Janz to work with state group to foster healthier lifestyles among women

A University of Iowa professor has been named to a statewide taskforce that is working to improve the health of low-income and uninsured women. Kathleen Janz, associate professor of health, leisure, and sport studies in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will work with the Iowa Department of Public Health's WISEWOMAN Cardiovascular Study as the physical activity and exercise advisor.

The Iowa WISEWOMAN study is one of 12 demonstration projects funded through 2005 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The goal of WISEWOMAN, which stands for "Well-Integrated Screening and Evaluation for Women Across the Nation," is to help women establish healthier lifestyles by offering screenings and interventions for behavioral risk factors for chronic diseases, especially physical inactivity and unhealthy diets.

Janz will be assisting the team in designing appropriate and effective physical activity interventions, including exercise programs and educational programs to teach women how to integrate healthier choices into their lifestyles.

"I'm really excited about this project because it signals a shift in how we think about providing services to women who have traditionally been underserved," Janz said. "In the past their health care needs have been addressed mostly in crisis mode -- when they came to an emergency room. This project is saying everybody deserves not just health care but tools to maintain health and prevent disease."

Janz and the team will screen women to evaluate such risk factors for cardiovascular disease as obesity, sedentary behavior, poor dietary habits, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Then women will receive assistance in modifying their lifestyles to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death among women. The program Janz and the rest of the Iowa team develops will serve as a model for community health organizations throughout the state.

Janz became involved in the program through a colleague at the CDC, who recommended her to the project coordinator at the Iowa Department of Public Health.

"This appointment shows recognition at the federal as well as the state level of Kathy's research and teaching in cardiovascular health and physical activity and exercise for underserved populations," said Susan Birrell, the health, leisure, and sport studies department chair. "It's great that she's able to lend her expertise to this project and provide service and assistance to the state."