The University of Iowa Prevention Research Center for Rural Health (PRC-RH) has been working to promote rural health for over 20 years.

First funded in 2002, it is currently one of 26 Prevention Research Centers (PRC) in the US. The PRC program is a network of academic research centers that conduct community-based applied public health research to address chronic diseases and other leading causes of death and disability. The program was created in 1984 by the Department of Health and Human Services with congressional authorization and is overseen by the CDC.

PRC-RH Directors have included Dr. John Lowe, Dr. Faryle Nothwehr, Dr. Edith Parker, and currently Dr. Rima Afifi.  Deputy Directors included Dr. Theresa Armstead, Dr. Kathleen Janz, Dr. Linda Snetselaar, and currently Dr. Natoshia Askelson.

Every PRC conducts research on a core research project that engages with community. Our previous core research projects have included keg registration policy work to reduce underage drinking, promoting healthy options menu labeling in rural restaurants, and Active Ottumwa, an intervention to increase adult physical activity levels using physical activity leaders in the community.

Active Ottumwa Logo

Active Ottumwa (2014-2018)

PI: Baquero/Askelson

Active Ottumwa is a community wide program to support accessible, affordable, and sustainable physical activity programming for adults and to promote a healthy, positive, and vibrant Ottumwa, IA. Since 2018, Active Ottumwa has continued with leadership of Hy-Vee and local volunteers trained as Physical Activity Leaders (PALs). Listen to the Active Ottumwa Podcast!

Tomatoes on the vine

Rural Restaurant Healthy Options Program (2007-2014)

PI: Nothwehr 

The Healthy Options Program was a low-cost, low-risk intervention for rural restaurants in Iowa. Designed to increase awareness of already existing health menu options and substitutions, the program aimed to influence ordering behavior of restaurant patrons. After a successful pilot program, the program was disseminated state-wide and was adopted by 28% of target restaurants. The program is listed on the Rural Health Information Hub as an effective intervention and by CDC as a PRC tool showing evidence of effectiveness. Get the toolkit.

Image of Ottumwa Community Health Survey and community presentation

Ottumwa Community Health Survey (2013, 2018)

PI: Parker

In 2013, we implemented a community-wide survey in Ottumwa, IA to determine health priorities in the community. Based on the findings, we developed Active Ottumwa, a community-wide physical activity program that was our core PRC project from 2014-2018. We conducted a follow-up survey in 2018. Survey reports are available in English and Spanish and were presented in multiple community forums. 

Getty image of keg tap

Adolescent Alcohol Working Group Keg Registration Policy Implementation (2003-2007)

PI: Nothwehr/Lowe

The PRC-RH community advisory board led this project to develop and implement a keg registration intervention which successfully led to the passage of the local ordinance in Keokuk, IA (January 7, 2004). The goal was to reduce youth access to alcohol and shift adults’ attitudes about underage drinking through the promotion of a key registration ordinance at the county level. The advisory board was awarded in 2004 the “Above and Beyond” award from then Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack (February 2004) for making an outstanding and positive influence on the lives of Iowa children. Technical assistance and advocacy provided to the partnership by the UI PRC-RH and joint partnerships with other interested municipalities and counties in Iowa resulted in the subsequent successful passage of a statewide keg registration bill (July 2007).