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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 2, 2008

Principal Financial Group to support childhood wellness initiatives

A grant from the Principal Financial Group Foundation Inc. will help support a University of Iowa College of Public Health initiative designed to combat obesity and promote better health among Iowa's children.

The Principal has pledged a total of $250,000 over a period of five years to support community-based initiatives in Muscatine and Fort Dodge, Iowa that aim to promote wellness and reduce childhood obesity by improving nutrition and exercise programs. Support from the Principal will help focus on strengthening the measurement and evaluation methods used in these projects, which involve local school districts, teachers, families, health care providers and other stakeholders in these communities.

Approved by the Principal Financial Group Foundation in June 2008, the grant was made through the UI Foundation. Support for the ongoing obesity-prevention project also has been provided by the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and other local organizations.

"Childhood obesity has quickly become a national concern. That is why we are pleased to partner with the University of Iowa College of Public Health to develop a meaningful program evaluation and measurement tool," said John Aschenbrenner, president of Insurance and Financial Services at Principal. "Having a clear understanding of how the physical and behavioral changes impact a move to a healthy lifestyle is important for the long-term success of any outreach program."

The College of Public Health project is led by Linda Snetselaar, Ph.D., interim head of community and behavioral health and professor of epidemiology, and Lawrence Prybil, Ph.D., professor of health management and policy.

"The goal of these efforts is to create models of evidence-based, communitywide programs that can be replicated in other communities," Snetselaar said. "This support from the Principal Financial Group Foundation will allow us to develop clearly defined measures and targets with which to evaluate specific strategies."

The initiatives in Muscatine and Fort Dodge build on existing community-based efforts and ongoing programs linked with the College of Public Health. In Muscatine, the primary community partner is the Muscatine Community School District, while in Fort Dodge, Trinity Regional Medical Center serves as the local partner.

"In both Muscatine and Fort Dodge, local residents and community leaders have identified childhood obesity as a priority health concern that they want to address," Prybil said. "That community commitment, in concert with the use of proven prevention strategies and ongoing assessment, provides an ideal environment to develop programs that will be durable and have measurable impact."

The UI acknowledges the UI Foundation as the preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the university. For more information about the UI Foundation, visit its Web site at

PHOTOS: Web-quality photos for Prybil are available at

Photos for Snetselaar are available at

High-resolution photos are available by contacting Hannah Fletcher at

STORY SOURCE: College of Public Health Office of Communications and External Relations, 4258 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52244-4550

MEDIA CONTACT: Hannah Fletcher, College of Public Health, 319-384-4277,