Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy

A Note from the Interim Director

Inspiration. That is the word that comes to mind when I look back on the work of the IIPHRP in the last year. Over the last several months, we have built a strong portfolio of programs, collaborations, and opportunities that positively influence our public health work of research, engagement and education. Whether you are a student meeting a visiting scholar, a faculty member meeting an executive-in-residence, or a community member offering advice as an advisory board member, these interactions spark inspiration. In each conversation, new ideas are shared. This mental stimulation spurs creativity and the inspiration to influence public health comes alive.

We share some of these inspirational highlights with you in the IIPHRP milestone report. As you peruse the report, you will discover a broad array of passionate people who are working together to inspire public health research and policy through the IIPRHP. The IIPHRP milestone report can be accessed here.

As you read this issue of IIPHRP NEWS, you will learn about some of our recent happenings including hosting special guests retired Senator Tom Harkin and health policy expert Dr Jenelle Krishnamoorthy. You will be introduced to the IIPHRP 2017-2018 policy fellows and will gain an overview of the focus of their policy projects. Finally, you will read about the continued efforts of the Iowa City INVEST Health initiative.

We hope that you will be inspired by the work of the IIPHRP and in turn, you will inspire others to make a difference in public health. Would you like to inspire others through involvement with the IIPHRP? Lets talk about the possibilities!!

Senator Harkin and Dr. Jenelle Krishnamoorthy

The University of Iowa College of Public Health hosted special guests Senator Tom Harkin (retired) and health policy expert and executive Jenelle Krishnamoorthy for two public lectures on Wednesday, Oct. 18. Both lectures were sponsored by the Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy (IIPHRP).

Senator Harkin, who represented Iowa in the United States Congress for more than four decades, is the IIPHRP’s inaugural Visiting Scholar. This program invites exceptional senior scholars to the college to enrich education, research, and collaborative initiatives and to provide opportunities for students and faculty to interact with the scholars through a variety of functions.

“Senator Harkin was selected as a Visiting Scholar for his in-depth knowledge and vast experience in the implementation of public health policy,” says Vickie Miene, interim director of the IIPHRP. Harkin served Iowa’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 to 1985 and was a U.S. Senator from 1985 until his retirement in 2015. His legislative policy priorities have included public health, federal farm policy, civil rights for Americans with disabilities, childhood nutrition and food access, health care access and reform, labor issues, and access to and improvement of education. He crafted the Americans with Disabilities Act and helped to lead passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, authoring the law’s many prevention provisions. Senator Harkin presented, Delivering a Healthy Future: Making Public Health Policy in the 21st Century.

Jenelle Krishnamoorthy visited the college through the IIPHRP’s Executive in Residence Program, which integrates senior business leaders into the life of the college and provides unique opportunities for experts to interact closely with students and faculty.

She is currently the Associate Vice President, U.S. Policy, Communications and Population Health at Merck and is trained as a licensed clinical psychologist. Prior to joining Merck in January 2015, she was the Health Policy Director for the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in the United States Senate for then Chairman Tom Harkin.

Krishnamoorthy presented, Population Health: Perspectives from the Field and Policy Implications. “Dr. Krishnamoorthy has a wealth of experience as a scientist, policymaker, and executive,” says Miene. “The various roles she has held in her career offer valuable perspectives on formulating public health policy.”

Krishnamoorthy first joined Harkin's team as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow in 2003 and 2004. During 2004 and 2005, she worked at the U.S. State Department in the Bureau of South Asian Affairs on health, science, technology, and environment issues with India on an AAAS Diplomacy Fellowship.

She rejoined the Harkin office in January 2006 as the Senator's lead health staffer and was responsible for the HELP Committee’s legislative agenda on health reform, public health and prevention, SAMHSA and mental health issues, FDA issues, NIH/CDC research, workforce issues, and all programs at agencies within Health and Human Services (HHS).

In addition to the lectures, both guests met with small groups of students, policy fellows, faculty and staff to share their experiences and perspectives on health policy.

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Introducing the IIPHRP Students

The Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy (IIPHRP) is pleased to announce the newest members of its Policy Fellow Program. The 2017-2018 Policy Fellows are Paul Gilbert, UI assistant professor of community and behavioral health, and Brandi Janssen, UI clinical assistant professor of occupational and environmental health.

The year-long Policy Fellow Program creates opportunities for primary faculty to enhance their skills for translating public health research into practice and policy. Each Policy Fellow develops and implements an “action learning project” focused on a critical public health topic. The project is intended to be completed within a one-year timeline and requires at least one stakeholder meeting and a product, such as a policy brief, proposed legislative language, or an implementation guide to disseminate at the end of the Fellowship.

“The scope of each project can be very diverse,” says Vickie Miene, interim director of the IIPHRP, “For example, one project may be to develop a position paper on a specific public health issue, while another project may be to implement legislative language that impacts workforce development.”

IIPHRP selects Policy Fellows from a competitive application process. The program provides funds for Fellows to attend specialized conferences or for other approved activities that enhance their learning. In addition, the program supports visits from policy experts, industry leaders, and other faculty who provide education and expertise to the program.

Paul Gilbert, policy fellow

Gilbert’s project is looking at ways to reduce underage drinking, specifically through social host liability laws. Social host liability holds that adults who provide alcohol to minors, or allow minors to consume alcohol on their property, should be accountable for those violations of the minimum legal drinking age. In 2014, the Iowa state code was amended to enact a statewide social host liability law, covering all jurisdictions.

As a first step, Gilbert will assess variation in enforcement of Iowa’s recent social host liability law. He will review county-level enforcement records and interview stakeholders to understand when and how the law is enforced, including barriers to enforcement. As a second step, Gilbert will draw on the local knowledge and scientific literature to make recommendations to strengthen Iowa’s adolescent alcohol prevention policy.

An issue brief outlining the problem of adolescent drinking and describing the social host liability law is forthcoming. The final policy recommendations will be shared at a public summit in summer 2018.

Brandi Janssen, policy fellow

Janssen’s project will focus on partnering with agricultural lenders to improve farm safety in Iowa. Injuries among farmers and agricultural workers remain higher than nearly every other industry in the United States. In most years in Iowa, agriculture is responsible for more occupational fatalities than any other industry.

These high injury and fatality rates are partially a result of the nature of agricultural work, in which farmers and their employees are regularly exposed to multiple hazards on the job (equipment, livestock, chemicals, and environmental hazards such as extreme heat and cold). In addition, because most farms employ fewer than 10 non-related workers, there are very few enforceable policies that require safety protocols or enact penalties for unsafe working conditions.

Many other industries, including manufacturers, grain co-ops, and financial lenders, rely on a safe and healthy farm workforce. In particular, agricultural lenders, who also aim to reduce risk, may be good partners in farm safety promotion and policy. Recognizing that safe farms benefit both farmers and lenders, whose investments are better protected, this project aims to identify strategies for agricultural lenders to encourage and improve safe farm practices in Iowa.

INVEST Health Interns Design 7 Steps to a Healthy Home

The connection between were we live and our health is strong. One of the chronic health issues that the Iowa City INVEST Health team focuses on is asthma. In an effort to promote healthy homes, student interns Amanda Janson and Katie McCullough worked to develop an educational brochure that provides information about how to keep your home healthy. Using information from Healthy Homes Solutions, the interns developed, 7 Steps to a Healthy Home. This document provides 7 steps and graphic reminders to inform tenants, property owners and home owners of important steps to keep your home healthy. This can be particularly important information for occupants who struggle with allergies or asthma symptoms. In some cases, if your home has issues with moisture, bug infestations, or dust it may be triggering asthmatic symptoms. The guide is available in 4 languages including English, French, Swahili and Spanish and is being distributed through property owners, realtors and coordinators of various housing programs.

Free Wheels Program

An INVEST Health inspired program to provide bikes for kids in select neighborhoods has been realized. The City of Iowa City in partnership with the Iowa City Police Department and World of Bikes, developed a program that provides used bikes to kids. The idea of the program is to teach kids how to safely ride the bike and to care for the bike, even to repair the bike if it becomes broken. Providing kids with bicycles teaches them responsibility, provides a bit of freedom and encourages healthy exercise as well as appreciating the various trails and scenery that is abundant in the Iowa City Area. Watch the short video below to get more details on the Free Wheels program.

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, MS, MA, LMHC

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