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CONTACT: DAVE PEDERSEN
283 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax (319) 335-8034
e-mail: david-pedersen@uiowa.edu

Release: Immediate

UI College of Medicine to participate in program to protect farm youths

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Agricultural health and safety specialists at the University of Iowa College of Medicine will seek to participate in a $5 million national research program to protect farm youths from illness, injury and death.

Details of the program were announced today by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) at a town meeting at the National Farm Medicine Center in Marshfield, Wis. The initiative builds on previous NIOSH-supported research and on recommendations from a national action plan for child agriculture safety and health released last year by a broad-based coalition of farmers, rural groups, health professionals and government officials.

The UI's Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, part of the UI Institute for Rural and Environmental Health (IREH), is one of eight NIOSH-funded centers around the United States that will submit proposals to NIOSH for research projects on farm health and safety for children. This includes studies of factors that contribute to preventable illnesses or injuries on the farm, intervention strategies, and the evaluation of education and training projects for farm children.

"This initiative will enable researchers to develop ways to ensure safer farms for current and future generations of Iowans," says Dr. James Merchant, UI professor of preventive and internal medicine and director of the IREH. "Learning more about the factors that contribute to health risks on the farm will lead to a culture of prevention, educational programs for children and safer agricultural work practices for young people."

While most of the NIOSH funding will go toward supporting such projects, plans also include establishing a national center to facilitate activities designed for childhood agriculture injury prevention. NIOSH issued a call for research grants applications last month and will distribute a request in late April for applications to establish a national center.

According to NIOSH, at least 100 people under the age of 20 are killed on farms each year and more than 100,000 are injured in agriculture-related activities. Tractors and farm machinery, livestock, grain bins and other farm structures are leading factors in these incidents.

Established in 1990, the UI's Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health has supported research and outreach activities in a several key areas, including studies on exposure to grain dust, the ongoing Keokuk County Rural Health Study and the Tractor Risk Abatement and Control (TRAC-SAFE) program. The center also supports Farm Safety 4 Just Kids, a grass-roots organization with 60 chapters and 2,500 members across the U.S. and Canada promoting farm safety awareness and education for children.

NOTE TO TV NEWS DIRECTORS: A satellite news feed of the announcement of this initiative on April 21 will be available from 9:30 - 10 a.m. and 1:00 - 1:30 p.m. CST. The coordinates are: 9:30 - 10 a.m., Galaxy C4, Transponder 14, and 1:00 - 1:30 p.m., Galaxy C4, Transponder 22. The feed will consist of videos of a farm family that lost a child to a farming fatality, spokespersons for farm safety and sound bits from Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and NIOSH director Linda Rosenstock. For technical questions during the feed, call 1-800-666-7882.

4/21/97