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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 29, 2004

New Investigator Research Award Recipients Announced

Two University of Iowa faculty members have been awarded 2003-2004 College of Public Health-College of Medicine New Investigator Research Awards. The awards assist newly appointed primary or joint faculty in the College of Public Health or the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine to advance their research activities. Each recipient will receive up to $10,000 of funding for independent research projects.

The recipients are Michelle "Shelly" Campo, Ph.D., and Anne Baber Wallis, Ph.D., both assistant professors of community and behavioral health. Campo's research will examine community leaders' perceptions of binge drinking on the UI campus as a first step for increasing community involvement and enacting policy change. Wallis' proposal aims to better understand differences in prenatal care use and low birthweight outcomes among Latina women in Polk County, Iowa and Palm Beach County, Fla.

"Both of these proposals address important health issues that have impact locally and nationally," said Leon Burmeister, Ph.D., associate dean of research and academic affairs for the College of Public Health. "The College is confident that meaningful contributions will result from each of the selected research projects."

At the UI, rates of undergraduate binge drinking (defined as five or more drinks per sitting for males and four or more drinks per sitting for females) are among the highest in the nation, according to national surveys. Binge drinking rates at the UI between 1997 and 2003 hovered around 70 percent, with frequent binge drinking rates at 47 percent, compared with national rates of 44 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

To reduce binge drinking and its related negative consequences such as personal injuries, violence, property damage and sexual assault, many colleges combine educational efforts with an environmental approach, including stiffening punishments for underage drinking and changing campus and community policies to restrict drinking.

"While educational efforts remain important, changes in drinking norms, public policy and community action are needed to address this problem," Campo said. "Understanding how the local community -- particularly decision makers, opinion leaders and other influential persons -- understand the issue is essential to increase community participation in order to reduce negative consequences associated with heavy drinking."

Campo will gather information by conducting 50 one-hour interviews with leaders in city government, law enforcement, education, business, mass media, the faith-based community and local neighborhood associations.

"Research to date has tended to separate alcohol problems into community alcohol issues and campus alcohol issues," Campo added. "This study will help to bridge that gap, as well as point to ways to mobilize community participation on the issue."

Wallis' project will investigate differences in birth outcomes between two groups of Latina women in Iowa and Florida. Research has revealed significant disparities in neonatal health among racial and ethnic groups in the United States, particularly between African-American and European-American infants. Much less disparity is observed between Latino and European-American infants, even though Latina women have sociodemographic risk factors more similar to the African-American childbearing population.

Based on an analysis of birth data for 2000, Wallis found that Latina women in Iowa are more likely than their Florida counterparts to receive prenatal care during the first trimester of their pregnancy. However, despite access to earlier prenatal care, the Latina women in Iowa are more likely to give birth to infants with a low birthweight than their counterparts in south Florida.

By analyzing birth and census data from both locales, Wallis will look at specific demographic differences between the two populations, adequacy and timing of prenatal care, state Medicaid policies and the density and length of residence of Latino populations in the two locales.

"This research is important becase it may help explain why Latina women experience better birth outcomes than other minority women," Wallis said. "Also, this study is the first to compare two Latino communities that have different birth outcomes. The resulting data may help shape public health programs and policy initiatives to improve infant health across racial and ethnic groups in the U.S."

The New Investigator Research Awards are chosen on the basis of scientific merit, relevance to the College of Public Health mission and probability of attracting subsequent extramural research funding.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications, 4257 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242.

MEDIA CONTACT: Media: Debra Venzke, 319-335-9647, debra-venzke@uiowa.edu

PHOTOS: Photos of Shelly Campo and Anne Baber Wallis are available at http://www.public-health.uiowa.edu/cbh/faculty/campo.html and http://www.public-health.uiowa.edu/cbh/faculty/wallis.html