Regents approve public health research institute


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The University of Iowa is dedicating funding for a new institute for public-health research and policy, designed to create a smoother transition from research to policy.

Last week, the state Board of Regents voted to approve the creation of the Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy.

Sue Curry, the dean of the UI College of Public Health, said she was delighted the regents voted to approve the institute.

“The new institute will allow us to expand both the scope and impact of our research,” she said. “The overall focus of public-health research is on improving and [maintaining] the health of populations.”

Curry said public-health research covers many subjects. Some topics include preventing illness and injury, understanding the origins of infectious diseases, and organizing the delivery of health care.

The new institute will dedicate approximately $2 million to studies regarding public-health research and the policies they pertain to.

Curry said funding for the institute will come from existing university funds and philanthropy as well as grants from federal agencies, foundations, and public-private partnerships.

“The UI College of Public Health has a stellar track record of tackling diverse challenges in keeping the public well through our groundbreaking research, robust community partnerships, and translation of new knowledge into effective policies here in Iowa and nationally,” Curry said.

US News & World Report’s latest graduate college public health rankings have the UI as one of the top 20 schools in the nation.

Corinne Peek-Asa, the college’s associate dean for research, said the new institute will serve as a hub for research to improve the health of populations and communities.

“The institute will bring together experts from numerous areas to address the most important health challenges of our day and will also focus on building wellness and resilience,” Peek-Asa said.

She said key components of research include coordinating community partners’ participation and increasing the speed in which research translates into practice.

“We will be better able to examine the long-term impacts of nukmerous policies at once,” Peek-Asa said. “For example, the Affordable Care Act is new, but it enters a world with many other policies that affect how, where, and what health care people receive.”

The application of large-scale policy is a key aspect of the public health research. 

The new institute will work in cooperation with the existing Rural Policy Research Institute for Rural Health Policy Analysis, which moved to the public-health school around four years ago.

“[We will] work together with the common drive we have as researchers to look at the broad topic of public health, the drive to make a difference in communities and to individual lives,” Professor Keith Mueller said. “[The research] brings energy of connection from what we do in the college to what happens in communities.”

The institute will work with community partners such as business leaders, schools, families, and health-care providers.

“It will be working with people in communities around issues related to keeping the populations and communities as healthy as possible,” Mueller said.

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