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University of Iowa News Release


Dec. 2, 2009

Radio dramas aim to reduce unintended pregnancies in Iowa

Public health researchers hope that listeners who tune into radio dramas will take away lessons in preventing unintended pregnancies.

As part of the Iowa Initiative to Reduce Unintended Pregnancies, researchers in the University of Iowa College of Public Health, the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Alabama are producing Spanish-language radio dramas, often called "radionovelas," for Latino audiences across Iowa.

The program, titled "La Noche te da Sorpresas" or "The Night Gives You Surprises," airs Saturdays on four radio stations across Iowa: at 4 p.m. on 1270 AM in Davenport; at 3 p.m. on 105.5 FM in Des Moines; at 10 a.m. on 1250 AM in Waterloo; and at 8 a.m. on 97.7 FM in Council Bluffs.

The 15-minute programs are part of a 32-program series. Each program is followed by a live, 45-minute show featuring health and community experts who are available to address the topics of the preceding program and answer questions from callers about unintended pregnancies.

About half of the pregnancies in Iowa and the United States among women ages 18 to 30 are unintended. This project is one of several focused on reducing all unintended pregnancies for all Iowans, said Shelly Campo, UI associate professor of community and behavioral health and co-principal investigator for the radio programs project. Unintended pregnancies include unwanted or mistimed pregnancies, such as pregnancies that are earlier than planned or conceived after a woman has decided not to have any more children.

"Unintended pregnancies are a problem in Iowa and across the nation, for all races and ethnicities. They are associated with a number of increased health risks for mother and child, and they can seriously disrupt personal, educational or career goals," Campo said. "These radio dramas offer a unique opportunity to communicate with the Latino community through Spanish-language stations."

Each script was developed with the guidance of local community leaders to be sure the situations and characters are plausible and relatable.

Within the diverse cast, some characters serve as good role models and others exhibit poor choices. The storyline aims to encourage listeners to modify unhealthy behaviors and educate them about the variety of family planning services available. From birth control to abstinence, project leaders hope to introduce women and their partners to contraception methods that suit their needs should they want to prevent or delay pregnancy, said Manuel Galvez Ibarra, program associate for the UI Center for Health Communications and Social Marketing.

"The use of radio dramas to disperse public health information is brand new to the University of Iowa, but it is a popular method of communication in other countries and cultures," Galvez Ibarra said. "Many entertainment shows may address these same issues, but this project ensures that the programming includes accurate health information and valuable resources for listeners."

Episodes of "La Noche te da Sorpresas" are currently being recorded and edited in Iowa City by UI students and other local actors. For more information and an archive of past episodes, visit

A Spanish/español version of this release is available at:

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: Hannah Fletcher, 319-384-4277, or Manuel Galvez, 319-335-9604,