August 22, 2014

Report: Iowa is doing well, but could do better, in cancer prevention

A national report finds Iowa is making progress as a state toward preventing cancer but it also says there’s plenty more that could be done.

David Holmquist, with the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, says the report uses a dozen categories as benchmarks, giving the states a red light for failing to measure up, yellow for being part way there, and green for succeeding.

“Iowa came out with six red, three yellow and three green,” Holmquist says, “so Iowa’s doing a pretty good job.” Only ten states were found to be doing “very well” with cancer prevention efforts, though Iowa’s among the 40 others that “need work,” he says. Still, Holmquist applauds Iowa for the three categories that were green-lighted.

“In terms of increased access to Medicaid and for pain policy, they got greens in both of those categories and they got a green for Iowa’s smoke-free law,” Holmquist says. “Iowa has a very strong smoke-free law and has had good success in making sure people are not exposed to second-hand smoke.”

The annual report, called “How Do You Measure Up?”, is in its 12th year and illustrates how states stand on issues that play a critical role in reducing cancer incidence and death. Holmquist says Iowa is failing in a half-dozen key areas.

“The red zone would be: physical education time requirements in the schools, restrictions on indoor tanning devices and cervical cancer early detection programs, those are three of the critical ones,” Holmquist says. “Also, in cigarette tax increases, the tax has not been increased for several years.”

The Centers for Disease Control recommends about $30-million be spent in Iowa to fund tobacco prevention and control measures. Iowa now spends about $5-million on such programs, one-sixth of what’s recommended.

Holmquist says, “What needs to happen is for the state legislature to take action on these issues and invest in some requirements that will improve outcomes and improve prevention for people who are potentially facing a cancer diagnosis.”

The report says 17,630 people in Iowa will be diagnosed with cancer this year, while 6,380 people in Iowa will die from it in 2014.

See the full report at:

Trooper’s tips for avoiding tickets around stopped school buses

One of the Iowa State Patrol’s safety education officers says many drivers aren’t aware of traffic laws regarding school buses. Trooper Vince Kurtz says there are a number of reasons people get ticketed.

“I think, by and large, the biggest one is going to be distractions and people not paying attention to what’s going on, on the road,” Kurtz says. “On top of that, I don’t think especially a lot of the younger drivers don’t know how to react to a school bus that’s stopping on the roadway.”

On a highway where the posted speed limit may be 55 miles an hour, a vehicle must reduce its speed to 20 miles an hour when approaching a school bus that has its lights flashing, then come to a complete stop when that red stop sign gets extended from the side of the vehicle and the bus stops.

“Cars that are approaching the school bus from the front — and by that I mean not following the bus, but approaching from the front — they don’t understand, they don’t realize that they are required to stop when that stop sign comes out and the red lights (on the bus) start flashing,” Kurtz says. “Both directions of traffic are required to stop for that school bus.”

Read current Iowa law regarding school bus protocol here.

Iowa lawmakers significantly increased the penalties for passing a stopped school bus in 2012 after a girl from Northwood was struck and killed as she crossed a highway to board a stopped school bus. The fine is now at least 250-dollars for a first violation and the convicted driver loses their license to drive for a month.

Trooper Kurtz is based in the Iowa State Patrol’s Spencer office, which serves the following northwest Iowa counties: Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Lyon, O’Brien, Palo Alto, Sioux, Buena Vista, Cherokee and Plymouth.

(Reporting by Ryan Long, KICD, Spencer; additional reporting, editing by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)

Conference focuses on preventing human trafficking and abuse

The “Iowa Preventing Abuse” conference opens tomorrow in Cedar Rapids. Preventing Abuse Foundation president, Tony Nassif, says they will focus on several points. “One, the human trafficking, child abduction/exploitation, drug cartels, the border crisis and basically protecting women, children and families,” Nassif says.

He says the conference has a couple of goals: “We’re going to focus on educating the people, motivating them to act, and showing them what they can do to be part of the solution,” according the Nassif. Nassif has been conducting the conferences for more than 10 years and has held several in Iowa. “The first thing that we focused on was child abduction, the single abductor. Because at that time I didn’t know about human trafficking — this goes back 10-15 years,” Nassif says. “Then I started getting connections of information about what is called human trafficking. Then I got connected to the White House, State Department.” He says they continued adding on connections to federal agencies and other organizations as their scope grew.

Nassif says the southern border crisis has become an issue too, as he says the open border is a pipeline for the drug cartels to conduct drug and human trafficking. “And so there’s a very vast connection to the opens borders, human trafficking, the drug cartels, and now they are linking into the gangs,” Nassif says.

A variety of state and national speakers will make presentations at the conference. Nassif says Iowa may not seem like it has any connection to the big city drug cartels and gangs, but he says “People who think the drug cartels are operating in big cities, the human trafficking is in big cities, let me tell you something. At my last conference in Cedar Rapids, my experts — not opinions, we don’t deal with opinions — my expects showed maps of the activities of the drug cartels in Iowa, Iowa. And we are going to expound on that at this conference,” Nassif says.

The interstate highways that run across Iowa are a link to the trafficking. “One of the biggest problems have been the truck stops. Now there are groups that are fighting it, but the thing is, this country is a sinkhole 10 minutes before it is going to collapse,” according to Nassif. “And our call, our clarion call, is to trumpet the warning that — yes there’s a problem — but we’ve got the solution.”

Nassif says there are still a few spots open at the conference and you can register by going to


Researchers try to deal with spread of pork virus through feed

A deadly virus that’s driving up pork prices as it’s wiped out as many as one in every ten piglets in Iowa in the past year can be spread through hog feed, according to new research.

Dr. Scott Dee, the study’s lead author and research director at Minnesota’s Pipestone Veterinary Services, says they were stunned to learn Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus, or PEDV, can travel through livestock feed. “That’s why I think the industry is a little reactive to that, because it’s new, it’s a surprise,” Dee says. “Again, no blame on the feed industry because we’re partners and we have to work together, but we have to realize that it is a potential risk, so we can manage that risk.”

Iowa’s first PEDV case was found more than a year ago. Since then, the virus has killed as many as seven-million pigs nationwide. There have been more than 4,100 cases reported in 26 states, including more than a thousand cases in Iowa. Dee isn’t sure where the virus originated but believes the study’s findings can help deter future outbreaks.

He says the revelation that PEDV travels through feed has shaken the pork industry. “The feed’s the wild card because historically feed hasn’t been a risk factor for disease transfer,” he says. “Now, all of the sudden, we have a pathogen that does. The fact that the feed could potentially be a vehicle was a big surprise.”

The study is being published in the BMC Veterinary Research Journal. Later this month, Dee’s team will release a paper on commercially-available feed additives which he says will help in the prevention of PEDV. The Hawkeye State is the nation’s number-one hog producer in an industry worth some $6.7 billion to the Iowa economy.

New device helps patients with heart disease improve their condition

John Hilding shows reporters the LVAD.

John Hilding shows reporters the LVAD.

Doctors with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City and Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines are touting the success of a relatively new device for heart patients who have run out of options. It’s call a left ventricular assist device or LVAD.

Sixty-eight-year-old John Hilding of Des Moines had advanced heart failure and had the LVAD installed this summer. “My life’s improved and now we’re talking about doing a little traveling next month,” Hilding said as he sat next to his wife, Sue, at a news conference Wednesday at Mercy Medical Center. The device is a bit bulky. Hilding pulled up his shirt to show reporters how a cord, connected to his heart, exits through his stomach and attaches to a control unit and battery pack.

Hilding, who was first diagnosed with heart failure in 2004, said his condition hit a low point earlier this year. “I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t do nothing hardly,” Hilding recalled. “I’m improving, I should be better off than I am, but the doctor says I’m great right now. I’ve got high hopes for myself.”

Doctor Chris Kassiotis, a cardiologist at the Iowa Heart Center at Mercy, said Hilding’s advanced congestive heart failure left him with few options. “We looked at the possibility for a heart transplant, but he did not qualify by the criteria that is set for a heart transplant. There’s the left ventricular device and really the only other option, because they’re having a lot of symptoms, is palliative care and hospice care,” Kassiotis said.

In most cases, an LVAD is used as a “bridge” for a patient until an organ becomes available for a heart transplant. But, in Hilding’s case, it’s used as “destination therapy” and is designed to improve and prolong his life.

Doctor Fran Johnson, director of advanced heart failure research and education at the University of Iowa, said the LVAD is much different than a pacemaker – particularly since it’s worn externally. “We are moving forward in battery technology and so when the devices are totally implantable and are miniaturized some more, it will become far less burdensome to a patient,” Johnson said. She expects such implantable LVADs will be tested at the University of Iowa within a few years.

Johnson said the LVAD procedure varies in cost, depending on a patient’s insurance, but it’s similar to the cost of a heart transplant.


Fed Reserve Bank finds caution among farmers over economics of 2015

A survey of Midwestern agricultural lenders conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank finds plenty of wary farmers across Iowa and the region. Nathan Kauffman, with the Omaha branch office of the Fed’s 7-state 10th District, says not too many farmers and livestock producers are worried about this year, but 2015 is another matter.

“Thinking about 2014, the crop insurance price for corn, for example, was set at $4.62 which is quite a bit higher than where cash prices are right now,” Kauffman says. “Going into early next year, February will be another important month, just thinking about what the crop insurance price might be set going into next year.”

Kauffman says most rural bankers reported solid credit conditions, but also say farmers are being very cautious about making equipment purchases or other capital outlays. “The important thing to note for now is that it looks like credit quality is still strong,” Kauffman says. “Repayment rates, though they’ve softened a bit, are still relatively strong, although that does present some concerns going forward.”

Analysts say this cautious approach by farmers will cause an economic ripple effect that will be felt by businesses throughout Iowa and across the region.


Iowa corn maze honors TV weatherman Al Roker

An eastern Iowa farm family that creates a corn maze every year has put a little different twist on their design this year. The maze in rural Benton County features TV weatherman Al Roker in honor of his 60th birthday today.

Karen Peterson is one of the owners of Bloomsbury Farm in Atkins, and says they started doing a maze 12 years ago as a way to get the public out to the farm. “To you know, enjoy some of the farm senary and get a little taste of the country. And each year we do a different design in our corn maze, it’s ten acres,” Peterson says. “This year we just wanted to send a shout out, a 60th tribute to Al Roker, de does so many good things, and he just looks like a super, super guy.”

They use a company to design the maze for them each year. She says they send the design concept to the company and it takes them one to two hours to make the design. Cutting the design out of corn takes about six hours. They had to get Roker’s permission to make the maze. Peterson says the maze was featured on the NBC today show this morning to kick off Roker’s birthday celebration on the program.

Peterson says visitors can see the maze in a few weeks as they open Labor Day weekend. Peterson says the whole farm opens up for a variety of activities. She says they have people stopping by during the summer to look at the maze. They have a game that goes inside the maze and helps people navigate. You can find out more about the maze and the other fall activities by visiting

By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City