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Release: Oct. 31 2002

Photo: John Lowe, UI professor and head of community and behavioral health and principal investigator of the new Prevention Research Center.

Prevention Research Center To Focus On Nutrition, Physical Activity

The University of Iowa department of community and behavioral health, based in the College of Public Health, has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish the nation’s 27th Prevention Research Center. The new center will lead several community-based programs to address rural health in the Midwest in the area of nutrition and physical activity.

"There are numerous and compelling reasons to be concerned about the health of rural populations," said John Lowe, UI professor and head of community and behavioral health and principal investigator of the new center. "Rural populations tend to have higher rates of selected cancers, birth defects, chronic respiratory disease, noise-induced hearing loss and injury. In addition, behavior such as dietary habits and exercise appear to be poorer than non-rural areas. This center will help to facilitate rural communities to address health issues that are of concern to them."

Initially, the new center will focus on rural health issues of residents in Keokuk County, in southeast Iowa. A Community Advisory Committee in Keokuk County has identified poor nutrition and lack of physical activity as priority concerns for county residents.

The center will develop new methods to improve the health literacy of rural communities and create a network of health promoting services in Keokuk County. Trained volunteers, called community health advocates, will participate in the delivery of various health promoting activities, such as in-home counseling on diet and exercise, education to help residents develop and incorporate health lifestyles, and development of new policies to promote health.

Over time, the center will provide feedback to the community and evaluate the impact of the efforts to create a healthier county. Activities will be coordinated with the Keokuk County Health Department and the Iowa Department of Public Health.

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) provided critical legislative leadership to support the Prevention Research Centers grant program.

Prevention Research Centers were first authorized by Congress in 1984 to address the special health needs of underserved populations that have a disproportionately large burden of death and disability. In many of these populations, health disparities are related to adverse socioeconomic conditions.

Prevention Research Centers are commonly based in schools of public health and medicine and serve as a national resource for developing effective prevention strategies and applying those strategies at the community level.