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CONTACT: DEBRA VENZKE
UI COLLEGE OF PUBLIC HEALTH
5203 Westlawn
(319) 335-9647
e-mail: debra-venzke@uiowa.edu

Release: Nov. 11, 2002

UI researcher receives grant to study workplace violence in health care settings

Corinne Peek-Asa, Ph.D., University of Iowa associate professor of occupational and environmental health, has received a $1.2 million, three-year grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The grant will be used to study the effectiveness of initiatives designed to reduce workplace violence against health care workers.

Research has shown that hospital and health care workers are at high risk for experiencing violence in the workplace. Each year, more than 900,000 medical workers report that they are victims of violence at work, and more than 2,600 of these victimizations result in serious injury, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

"Violence against hospital workers typically is committed by patients, but upset family members also lash out verbally and physically at staff," Peek-Asa said. "Some of the common risk factors for hospital violence include working with potentially volatile people, working alone or in understaffed conditions, inadequate security and lighting, and lack of staff training and policies for managing the working environment."

In an effort to reduce violence against health care workers, the state of California implemented two legislative and regulatory initiatives in the mid-1990s.

"The combination of these two initiatives is unique among states, yet no formal evaluation of either of these programs has been conducted," Peek-Asa said. "The overall goal of our research is to evaluate the simultaneous effects of these two initiatives. The first objective is to determine if the initiatives led to improved security programs in California hospitals. The second objective is to determine the effects of the two initiatives on incidence rates of violent events in hospitals."

The NIOSH grant is provided through the Workplace Violence Prevention Initiative. The appropriation for this funding originated with a national symposium on workplace violence sponsored by NIOSH and the UI Injury Prevention Research Center in April 2000. The symposium led to the creation of the document "Workplace Violence: A Report to the Nation," which subsequently was used as the basis of a congressional briefing on the issue. Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin helped organize the briefing and sponsored legislation to appropriate $2 million to NIOSH to address the issues raised in the Report to the Nation. Iowa Rep. Jim Leach attended the briefing and addressed the need for additional research in the area of workplace violence.

Other UI researchers involved with the study are James Merchant, Dr.P.H., M.D., dean of the College of Public Health, and Craig Zwerling, M.D., Ph.D., professor and head of occupational and environmental health. Peek-Asa's co-investigators include Jess F. Kraus, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and director of the Southern California Injury Prevention Research Center; Robert Harrison, M.D., director of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, California Department of Health Services; Marion Gillen, Ph.D., assistant professor of occupational health, University of California, San Francisco; and David Valiante of the Occupational Health Surveillance Program, New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.