Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy

Public health builds the bridge between what we know and what we do. This is a two-way bridge: sometimes research informs/influences policy and sometimes policy informs/influences research. This newsletter highlights some important initiatives of the IIPHRP that are building that bridge through collaboration, evaluation and the translation of research into policies and practices that impact our everyday lives.

A "collaboratory" is a creative group process, that is defined by gathering people from diverse backgrounds and disciplines around a topic to develop an innovative research concept. The collaboratory methodology expands the scope, scale and impact of public health research while planting the seed for new organizational networks to form. As you read this newsletter, you will learn about the IIPHRP's support for two new collaboratory's; one focused on exploring potential health risks from exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides, and the second exploring health outcomes for low-birth-weight and premature children. In addition, you will learn about a third collaboratory, supported by the University of Iowa, focused on integrating cancer data.

You will find information highlighting the work of one of the IIPHRP Policy Fellows. Her work regarding bicycling safety has not only positively impacted cyclists, but is informing safer policies for all highway users in Iowa.

In addition, this newsletter includes the results of a public health data needs assessment that was completed to better understand the public health data needs of many stakeholders including the public health workforce, policy makers, educators and the general public.

To find additional information about these initiatives and more, please visit our website at Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy.

Human Exposure and Health Risks from Neonicotinoid Insecticides Collaboratory

Bill Field, professor of occupational and environmental health (OEH) at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, is the leader of the Collaboratory to explore human exposure and health risks from neonicotinoid insecticides. Neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of insecticide, but have become the most widely used class of agricultural insecticides in the world.

Historically, neonicotinoid insecticides have been viewed as ideal replacements for more toxic compounds, such as organophosphates, due in part to their perceived limited potential to impact the environment and human health. Within the agricultural sector, they are preferred over other pesticides for several reasons, including their ability to be applied using a variety of methods; lower toxicity in birds, fish, and mammals; and high selectivity and potency for insects.

Few studies have been conducted to characterize human exposure to neonicotinoids or the insecticides’ potential health risks. This team will develop the infrastructure and preliminary data required to investigate the emerging potential risks of neonicotinoid exposure.

To the researchers’ knowledge, the collaborative is the first group in the U.S. to directly evaluate the potential human exposure of neonicotinoid insecticides. The study is also the first to assess neonicotinoid insecticide contamination in private wells used for drinking water, and the first to validate biomarkers necessary for future neonicotinoid-human health investigations.

Members of the team include: Wei Bao, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Epidemiology; Susie Dai, PhD, Environmental Lab Director, State Hygienic Laboratory; Manuel Gadogbe, PhD, Post Doctoral Fellow, OEH; Michelle Hladik, PhD Research Chemist, U.S. Geological Survey; Christopher Jones, PhD, Research Scientist, UI College of Engineering; Dana Kolpin, MS, Research Hydrologist U.S. Geological Survey; Hans-Joachim Lehmler, PhD, Associate Professor, OEH; Bob Libra, MS, State Geologist of Iowa, Dept of Natural Resources; Charles Lynch, MD, PhD, Professor, Dept of Epidemiology; Keith Schilling, PhD, Associate State Geologist, Iowa Geological and Water Survey; Darrin Thompson, MPH, Graduate Fellow, OEH; John Vargo, PhD, Environmental Lab Scientist, State Hygienic Laboratory; Peter Weyer, PhD, Director, Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination, and Thomas Fields, Professor, OEH.

The collaboratory has received letters of support from the Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination, Heartland Center for Occupational Health and Safety, Agricultural Health Study, Environmental Health Sciences Research Center, the Iowa Registry for Congenital and Inherited Disorders, Iowa Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa and U.S. Geological Survey.

Neonicotinoid Collaboratory Team Members

Big picture

Iowa Perinatal Health Research Collaboratory

Kelli Ryckman, associate professor of epidemiology, is the leader of the Iowa Perinatal Health Research Collaboratory (IPHRC). The central mission of the IPHRC is to develop a network of perinatal care providers and public health professionals working to improve the health outcomes of children born low birth weight (LBW) and/or preterm through innovative and multidisciplinary research initiatives.

Advances in neonatal intensive care have drastically reduced perinatal mortality related to LBW and/or preterm births. In infants born before 27 completed weeks of gestation, there is a 65% chance of survival and a 56% chance of survival without severe impairment, nationally.

Follow-up of “high risk” infants is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics; however, standard guidelines are lacking regarding how long follow-up should occur and which infants qualify as “high risk”. Infants identified for further follow-up widely varies based on resource availability and undoubtedly, some babies who may benefit from resources or specialized programs are missed. This underscores the need for perinatal research collaboratives that bring together providers, public health care professionals, and families to identify outcomes and health care utilization gaps for children born LBW and/or preterm.

The collaboratory will focus on three intersecting thematic areas:

1. The Database Development thematic area will establish a statewide database of children born LBW and/or preterm that provides a platform for outcomes research, quality improvement initiatives, and interventions.

2. The Health Services and Outcomes thematic area will develop a hospital services and outcomes data source to better understand the health care needs and outcomes in this population of Iowa children.

3. The Family and Community Engagement thematic area will engage families in research initiatives and provide and promote existing resources for families.

Team members include Mary Charlton, assistant professor of UI epidemiology; John Dagle, Carver College of Medicine, professor of pediatrics; and Lane Strathearn, professor of pediatrics and co-director of the University of Iowa Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities; Steven McElroy, MD, Interim Director, Neonatology, at UIHC; Tarah Colaizy, MD, MPH, Associate Professor, Neonatology, UIHC, Louis Muglia, MD, PhD, Director of Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital; Laura Jelliffe-Pawlowski, PhD, Associate Professor, University of California - San Francisco. In addition, graduate students Allison Momany and Nichole Nidey will contribute to this work.

A Population Health System Collaboratory for Reducing the Burden of Cancer

Population Prescriptions: A Population Health System Collaboratory for Reducing the Burden of Cancer

Establishing the necessary infrastructure to store, analyze, integrate and access large amounts of data is a challenge, especially regarding the millions of data points that are collected on patients annually in order to diagnose and treat cancer. Mining and visualizing this data in order to best understand it from the clinical, the research and the patient perspectives is a challenge across the health systems. This collaboratory is working to integrate cancer research resources with real-world public health and clinical care settings in order to routinely identify and deliver effective interventions for cancer prevention, risk assessment, screening, prognosis, treatment and survivorship. The team is led by Elizabeth Chrischilles, Professor and Marvin A. and Rose Lee Pomerantz Chair in Public Health, and funded by the University of Iowa Office of the Vice President of Research. Additional team members include Nick Street, Professor and Departmental Executive Officer, Tippie College of Business, Management Sciences Department, Professor Brad McDowell, Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center Population Research Core Director and Cori Peek-Asa, Associate Dean of Research, College of Public Health.

More information about this collaboratory can be found at this website

IIPHRP Policy Fellow uses Research to Create Policy Change

The IIPHRP policy fellow program was developed to encourage faculty to build skills and relationships that strengthen the bridge between public health research and policy/practice. Cara Hamann, Associate in the Department of Epidemiology says bicycle fatalities in Iowa have risen more then 260% in the last four years. In addition, most Iowa drivers do not receive charges in bicycle-motor vehicle crashes, regardless of fault. A study of Iowa bicycle-motor vehicle crashes found that only 26.5% of drivers were charged and of those, only 41.2% were convicted. Drivers who hit a bicyclist or pedestrian also had received 2.8 times more charges in the previous 3 years then drivers from the general population. As a policy fellow, Hamann, who is the author of several studies on bicycle safety, is working to translate her research into policy change to increase bicycling safety in Iowa.

Hamann established a collaboration with the Iowa Bicycle Coalition early on in her fellowship and together they arranged a Bicycle Policy Action Forum in December 2016. Approximately 40 stakeholders gathered to discuss the status of bicycle safety in Iowa and to generate ideas about solutions. Together they established three main policy areas to focus during the legislative session: 1) overtaking - require motorists to change lanes to pass bicyclists, 2) distracted driving - increase penalties and make distracted driving a primary offense, and 3) increase appropriations for bicycling infrastructure. An issue brief was created and shared widely in venues such as the Iowa DOT Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau and the Statewide Traffic Records Coordinating Committee. The brief was shared at the Iowa Bicycle Summit and with several policy makers at the Iowa Capitol.

Some tangible, successes have been realized in the 2017 Iowa legislative session, in part due to this work. Senate file 444 was passed, which increases penalties to drivers in crashes that involve electronic device use and a fatality. The law now states that the use of hand-held electronic devices, while driving, can be considered evidence of reckless driving, making it possible to charge a driver with homicide by vehicle.

In addition, this law makes using a hand-held electronic device while driving, a primary offense. Therefore, law enforcement officers can stop drivers who are texting. Use of hand held devices was previously a secondary offense, which meant officers could not stop drivers unless there was another violation present.

This policy change is a victory for bicycling safety, and demonstrates that advocacy for policy change can have a wide impact. This change impacts all road users, not just bicyclists.

“I don’t want to do research just for research’s sake, I want to be able to disseminate my findings in ways that influence policy and make positive changes in society,” says Hamann. “My experience as a policy fellow has given me a better understanding about the phases of policy making and how my research fits into that process.”

Public Health Data Needs Assessment

Public Health is changing because the needs of the population are changing. This in turn means that the data sought by the public health workforce and policy makers to make decisions, is also changing. The Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy (IIPHRP) was contracted by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) in October, 2016, to conduct a public health data needs assessment to better understand the needs of stakeholders and the utility of the Iowa Public Health Tracking Portal.

A mixed methods assessment that engaged multiple stakeholders, from multiple sectors through a combination of on-line surveys, focus group sessions, individual interviews and portal analytics was conducted. The results of this assessment include short term and long-term recommendations for IDPH to consider as they support the public health data needs of the workforce and continue to be the interpreters and distributors of population health information. The full report can be viewed at this link; Public Health Data Needs Assessment

The Iowa Public Health Tracking Portal can be accessed through this link https://pht.idph.state.ia.us/Pages/default.aspx.

IIPHRP Leadership

The Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy (IIPHRP) based in the College of Public Health, fosters inter-disciplinary collaborations by bringing together researchers, public health practitioners, citizens, community leaders, private partners and policy makers to help shape and inform public health policy. By bringing together the best of what we know, the IIPHRP creates better population health in Iowa, and across the nation.

Vickie Miene

Interim Director, Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Health Management and Policy

University of Iowa, College of Public Health


Keith Mueller, PhD

Interim Dean and Gerhard Hartman Professor

University of Iowa, College of Public Health