Students Protest Against Tobacco Across Iowa

On March 18, students in Iowa will join thousands of young people nationwide for the 20th annual Kick Butts Day. More than 1,000 events are planned nationwide for this day of youth activism, sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. (See below for a list of local events.)

According to a press release from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, on Kick Butts Day, “kids encourage their peers to stay tobacco-free, demand that tobacco companies stop marketing deadly, addictive products to them and encourage elected officials to do more to reduce youth tobacco use.”

“On Kick Butts Day, kids stand up and reject Big Tobacco’s manipulative marketing,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “We can make the next generation tobacco-free and end the tobacco epidemic for good. Elected officials can help reach that goal by standing with kids and supporting proven strategies to prevent youth tobacco use, including higher tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free laws and prevention programs.”

According to the organizers of the vent, in Iowa, tobacco use claims 5,100 lives and costs $1.28 billion in health care bills each year. They also claim that 18.1 percent of Iowa’s high school students currently smoke cigarettes.

In Iowa, activities include:

On March 16, students at Van Buren Middle School in Keosauqua will display a creative public message about tobacco abstinence outside of the school. They will also hold a point of sale scavenger hunt and an awareness walk. Time: 11 AM. Location: 503 Henry Street, Keosauqua. Contact: Melissa Daugherty (641) 919-0183.

Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU) at Mount Pleasant Middle School will host a health fair where youth will participate in interactive events and displays that expose the dangers of cigarettes and e-cigarettes. Time: 2 PM.  Location: 414 North Adams Street, Mount Pleasant.  Contact: Chris Kempker (319) 537-1222.

Youth will gather at the Dubuque Community YMCA to survey tobacco retailers, litter and smokers around area schools. Time: 4 PM. Location: 35 N. Booth Street, Dubuque. Contact: Vicki Gassman (563) 564-5669.

Community members will break into teams and meet at New Horizons-Muscatine to pick up cigarette butts. Certificates and awards will be handed out to participants. Time: 8 AM.  Location: 1605 Cedar Street,Muscatine. Contact: Mandy Moody (563) 554-0906.

All events are on March 18 unless otherwise indicated. For a full list of Kick Butts Day activities in Iowa, visitwww.kickbuttsday.org/map. Additional information about tobacco, including state-by-state statistics, can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org.

Opinion: Same-Sex Marriage is Not Enough: Separate Marriage and State

In a February 22 interview, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore discussed his reasons for nixing issuance of same-sex marriage licenses by probate judges in the state. “You’re taking any definition of a family away,” said Moore. He also expressed fear that bisexuals might “marry two persons, one of the same sex and one of the opposite sex.” While permitting group marriages of this sort isn’t currently under consideration at any level of government, there is no logical reason for a free society to forbid them. Nor is there reason why any of level of government should be involved in the marriage business at all.

Personal relationships should not be subject to arbitrary licensing requirements or the whims of puritanical politicians. Nor should they be defined, regulated or restricted by the state in any way. Consenting adults, subject to the consequences of their decisions, will pursue lifestyle choices that maximize their happiness. For some this will involve heterosexual monogamy, for others it may involve homosexuality or relationships with multiple partners. People who do not approve should be able to dissociate or express their disapproval as they please, but they should not able to use government coercion to restrict the choices of others.

Oklahoma has started the move in this direction with a bill (HB 1125) to end state issuance of marriage licenses. Under this bill clergy members would approve marriages, to be later recorded and certified by county clerks. While this could be a positive step, the bill’s wording places too much emphasis on Christian and Jewish clergy, to the exclusion of other religions and secular individuals. Those who do not wish to have clergy involved can instead file an affidavit for common law marriage. While the bill ends the state’s licensing regime, it unfortunately leaves the underlying system of state-granted benefits and recognition of married couples intact.

US law includes 1,138 statutory provisions in which marital status determines benefits,rights, and privileges. These include provisions on taxation, immigration, inheritance, Social Security and death benefits. Granting such a wide range of benefits to only to certain relationships is a form of discrimination and social engineering. While it is positive to see states discontinue their discrimination against same-sex couples, it is tragic to see those couples now subjected to the same social engineering schemes as heterosexuals.

It is often those who proclaim a love of freedom and “limited government” who most fervently support the state defining, licensing and bestowing benefits upon marriage. True lovers of freedom recognize that it is incompatible with coercive social engineering. If “traditional” marriage is as beneficial as proponents claim, it should have no trouble competing in a free market of lifestyles. Marriage is best kept between individuals, their friends and families, religious institutions, deities of choice or secular officiators. The same goes for the countless alternatives to marriage. It is unsurprising that increasing numbers of people are forgoing government recognized marriage. Why would anyone want their relationships recognized by an institution known for unambiguous corruption, spying on civilians, violent warfare and waste? We should strive to separate the state from all aspects of our lives, as it is a coercive violence-based institution. Separating marriage and state is a good place to start.

Photo Credit: “Equal Love Rally in Melbourne” by MikeybearOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

State Drops Schultz’s Voting Purge Appeal

Hat Tip: Bleeding Heartland

On Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court granted a request from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office to dismiss the state’s appeal in the case ACLU of Iowa and LULAC of Iowa v. Matt Schultz.

In a March 2014 district court ruling, the ACLU and League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) won their voting rights case against the former Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s office.  That decision invalidated a series of regulations the Secretary of State adopted to identify, challenge, and remove suspected non-citizens from Iowa’s registered voter rolls.  Schultz was using an immigration database to cross check registered voters and remove them from the voter registration lists without a legislative law being passed in Iowa.  Critics said that the immigration database was not always accurate and intimidated recent immigrants.

The district court decided that the actions of the former Secretary of State, Matt Schultz, were unlawful. The state appealed, and the parties have been litigating the case in the Iowa Supreme Court for approximately a year. The case was set for final submission later this month.

According to the ACLU, the state dropping its appeal means that the permanent injunction stopping the Secretary of State’s office from making changes to the voter roles will remain in place.

“This is an important victory for the protection of voters’ rights in Iowa,” said Rita Bettis, legal director of the ACLU of Iowa. “It means that Iowans will not have to worry about the voter purges we’ve seen take effect in other states with a disastrous impact, especially for new U.S. citizens and Latinos.”

Joe Glazebrook, an ACLU cooperating attorney in the case, said, “Iowans can now rest assured that their right to vote will not be infringed by the Secretary of State.  We are pleased that because of this action, the court order declaring these rules illegal will be allowed to stand, and the unfortunate wounds caused by these rules will begin to heal.  We certainly hope that in the future, government officials will keep this lesson in mind and will work towards expanding and protecting the right to vote as opposed to curtailing it.”

The case attracted attention and support from important voting rights organizations nationally. Several organizations filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the case in opposition to the voter removal efforts: Project Vote, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP), and Latino Justice PRLDEF had filed briefs in the case.

Bettis said, “We are incredibly thankful to our client, LULAC of Iowa, for its work to advance and protect the rights of Latino voters, and to Joseph Glazebrook, who argued the case so well at the district court level.”

A temporary injunction early in the case, the voter purge initiated by emergency administrative rule-making shortly before the 2012 general election was never allowed to take effect.

Jeremy Rosen, ACLU of Iowa executive director, said “This case is part of a broader effort nationally to push back on unfair voting restrictions by politicians that make it harder for people to vote, who are more likely to be minorities, poor people, the elderly, students, and people with disabilities.”

Schultz had partnered with the Department of Corrections to investigate fraudulent voters which he claimed 3,582 non-citizens were registered to vote; however, after an extensive investigation, which cost around $250,000, found 117 cases where ineligible votes were cast.

The letters the Secretary of State’s office had planned to send to voter’s they believed were ineligible are linked here.

Digital Photo Archive of Iowa’s History To Be Introduced

A public digital photo archive of Iowa’s history will be introduced at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 25, at Rod Library on the University of Northern Iowa campus.

According to the University of Northern Iowa, this digital archive, called FORTEPAN Iowa, is the first of its kind in Iowa and the United States, and is unique in that it features curated photos taken by ordinary Iowans during the 20th century.

FORTEPAN Iowa is the first international sister site to the Hungarian FORTEPAN project, founded in 2009. The name FORTEPAN comes from the name of a well-known Hungarian photographic film that was made from 1922 to 2007. András Török, a representative of the original FORTEPAN project in Hungary, will speak at the opening reception.

Bettina Fabos, associate professor of communication studies, first developed the idea for the Iowa project after meeting with FORTEPAN directors in Hungary during her Fulbright fellowship there in 2013.

“This has been such a rewarding archive to establish,” said Fabos. “We are so proud UNI will be the home site of the very first FORTEPAN state project in the U.S. This will be an unparalleled resource for Iowa history and digital literacy curricula across the state and reaffirms UNI as a leader in digital creativity and education.”

Other UNI faculty involved in the project include Leisl Carr Childers, assistant professor of history; Sergey Golitsynskiy, assistant professor of communication studies; and Noah Doely, assistant professor of art.

FORTEPAN Iowa will display thousands of photographs along a sliding interactive timeline and invite visitors to horizontally scroll through highly curated, well-documented photographs digitized at tremendously high resolution.

Many of the photographs have been obtained with the assistance of students in UNI’s interactive digital studies program. The photos represent the broad span of the 20th century and contain images of everyday life from across Iowa, including recreation, family gatherings, fairs and festivals, political events, agricultural activities, business and innovation, and education. The archive avoids the typical “great men” version of history, and instead presents Iowa history democratically, from a grassroots perspective.

Because the photographs of FORTEPAN Iowa will be available for free public download and carry a Creative Commons license, the open-source platform will inspire visitors to engage digitally with the high-quality images – a rare opportunity in a heavily copyrighted age, and a significant contribution to the digital humanities, history education and digital literacy.

Unlike other photo archives that arrange images according to collection donor or subject matter, the FORTEPAN interface conveys history chronologically, so it will be easily searchable. The project has been funded in part by a UNI Capacity Building grant and a Humanities Iowa grant.

Iowa’s Top Teachers Honored

14 of the state’s top teachers were honored for their service during an annual luncheon on Tuesday, March 10 in Des Moines.

Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck, Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and other leaders honored 14 finalists and winners of the following teaching awards at the Outstanding Iowa Teachers Recognition Luncheon in Des Moines:

  • Iowa Teacher of the Year
  • Iowa Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching
  • Gilder Lehrman Iowa History Teacher of the Year

“Great teachers lead, encourage, and inspire their students and fellow teachers,” Buck said. “And they never stop learning, growing and trying to get better.”

The luncheon was hosted by the Iowa Department of Education and sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the National Science Foundation, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Iowa Department of Education.

Iowa Teacher of the Year

  • Award-winner: Clemencia Spizzirri, a Spanish teacher at Merrill Middle School in Des Moines
  • Finalists:
    • Ryan Higgins, an engineering teacher at Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs
    • Renee McCombs, an eighth-grade special education teacher at Eastview 8-9 School in Norwalk
    • Dann Speichinger, an English as a second language teacher at the Educational Service Center in Sioux City
    • Tamara Tjeerdsma, a sixth-grade teacher at Crossroads Park Elementary School in West Des Moines
    • Stan Winquist, an industrial/agriculture education teacher at Glenwood Community High School in Glenwood

Gilder Lehrman Iowa History Teacher of the Year

  • Award-winner: James Hardy, who teaches grades 7-12 at East Union Community School in Afton

Iowa Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching*

  • Math Finalists:
    • Janna Bjork, a former third-grade math teacher who now teaches kindergarten English as a second language at Perry Elementary School in Perry
    • Ann Johnson, a second-grade teacher at Sageville Elementary School in Dubuque
    • Molly Sweeney, a multi-age teacher at the Downtown School in Des Moines
    • Tamara Bane, a former third-grade teacher who is now a high school instructional coach at Winterset Senior High School in Winterset
    • Tammie Cass, a math teacher at Nodaway Valley Middle School in Fontanelle
  • Science Finalists:
    • Joshua Steenhoek, a fifth-grade science teacher at Jefferson Intermediate School in Pella
    • Jessica Watson, a multi-age science teacher at the Downtown School in Des Moines

*State award-winners have not yet been announced by a national selection committee.

About the Awards

Iowa Teacher of the Year
The award, established in 1958, is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Education through an appropriation from the Iowa Legislature. The award honors an Iowa teacher who motivates, challenges and inspires excellence; who is respected by students and peers; and who is an exceptional teacher helping to redefine American education. Honorees serve as ambassadors to education and act as liaisons to schools, higher education and organizations across the state.

Gilder Lehrman Iowa History Teacher of the Year
Since 2004, the award has recognized outstanding American history teachers who possess a strong commitment to teaching American history and exhibit creativity and imagination in the classroom.

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching
These awards represent the nation’s highest honors for teachers of mathematics and science. Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities and leaders in improving mathematics and science education.

Youth Survey Finds Alcohol Abuse Stabilizing Bullying Decreasing

The 2014 Iowa Youth Survey (IYS) was released by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) on Friday and according to the results of the survey, alcohol among Iowa’s middle school and high school students remained roughly the same where alcohol abuse decreased.  In the most recent survey, 14 percent of 11th graders said they ‘drank beer in the past 30 days,’ compared to 19 percent in 2012.

“The Iowa Youth Survey gives us a glimpse into the lives of our young people,” said IDPH Iowa Youth Survey coordinator Pat McGovern. “While the answers represent a moment in time and do not give a complete view of the pre-teen and teenage mindset, they do give us a glimpse into their actions and beliefs. This enables us to tailor our programming and services in the most effective ways.”

In the 2014 survey, 39 percent of all respondents reported they were bullied at school at least once in the last 30 days by other students calling them names, making fun of them, or teasing in a hurtful way. This is slightly down from 2012, when 41 percent reported being bullied. The percentage of students who said they had made a suicide plan within the past 12 months remained relatively stable from 7 percent in 2012 to 8 percent in 2014.

According to the IDPH, a new question was added for the 2014 survey that asked about the use of e-cigarettes during the past 30 days. The reported usage rates of e-cigarettes were 3 percent of 6th graders, 4 percent of 8th graders, and 11 percent of 11th graders.

The survey also indicated that 9% of students had used marijuana and 99% had responded that they had never used meth.  48% had said that they strongly agreed that it was against their values to have sex as a teenager with that number decreasing with the age of the student from 69% of 5th graders and only 21% of 11th graders.

Participation in the 2014 IYS was up from 2012 to 77,139 students representing 85 percent of public school districts. The 2014 IYS is the 15th in a series of surveys that have been completed every two or three years since 1975. The survey is conducted with students in grades 6, 8, and 11 attending Iowa public and private schools. The IYS includes questions about students’ behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs, as well as their perceptions of peer, family, school, neighborhood, and community environments. IYS reports are generated by the Iowa Consortium for Substance Abuse Research and Evaluation.

Click here to view full report.

Iowa City Pastor Detained Faces Deportation

According to Mennonite World Review, Max Villatoro, a pastor at the First Mennonite Church in Iowa City was detained on March 3 by immigration and customs agents and is awaiting deportation to Honduras.

According to an online petition on FaithfulAmerica.org, Villatoro has lived in the United States for 20 years and has a wife and four children.

The Iowa Free Press will continue to follow developments and post additional updates as soon as we have them.

Image Source: Groundswell

Davenport Superintendent To Break State Law

Hat Tip: Washington Post

Davenport Superintendent Art Tate has said in an open letter to the state of Iowa that he plans violate state law that prohibits districts from spending more than they are authorized emphasizing that the school district has the money in the bank and will not increase taxes to do so; however, lacks the authority granted by the state of Iowa under Iowa Code 257.7 which we provide below:

1. Budgets. School districts are subject to chapter 24. The
authorized expenditures of a school district during a base year shall
not exceed the lesser of the budget for that year certified under
section 24.17 plus any allowable amendments permitted in this
section, or the authorized budget, which is the sum of the combined
district cost for that year, the actual miscellaneous income received
for that year, and the actual unspent balance from the preceding
year.
2. Budget amendments. If actual miscellaneous income for a
budget year exceeds the anticipated miscellaneous income in the
certified budget for that year, or if an unspent balance has not been
previously certified, a school district may amend its certified
budget.

Superintendent Tate’s letter is below:

While attending the Davenport legislative forum on Saturday, I was deeply impressed by two things: First, students from our district were wearing t-shirts proclaiming “I’m Worth-Less,” and it made me realize my personal responsibility as their leader to take action to assure that their district provides them with budget support equal to other students throughout the state. Second, as I listened to members of the audience question why the legislature can ignore the law by not producing a timely two-year education budget, it caused me to consider why I should be held to a higher standard when it comes to statutes concerning budgets.

Iowa State Code 257.7 prohibits districts from spending more than they are authorized, based on the district’s’ certified budget and the increase in allowable growth/state supplemental aid provided by the state. In other words, the state restricts how much a district can spend, no matter how much you have in the bank. The state requires that districts maintain something called the Unspent Balance which comes from monies the state allowed you to spend, but instead were saved as a reserve. Here’s the important point: State law does not allow the unspent balance to go into the red, which means that you are spending more than the state authorized. That is against the law.

I am formally informing the Board and the public of my intention to violate the state law. With my plan that begins next school year, I put into play operations which will bring us into spending more than authorized by the state during school year 2016 – 2017, and that violates State Code 257.7. I am taking this action after careful consideration and understanding the possible personal consequence. I take full and sole responsibility for the violation of state law. With this action I am following the example of our state legislature, which has ignored the law this year by not providing districts with the state supplemental aid amount by February 12, 2015. Let me emphasize that we have reserve cash to fund this effort; what we lack is state authorization.

The state funding formula is complicated and hard to master. But these facts are not complicated:

  1.  Our students and families have unmet needs resulting from a lack of funding.
  2. We have cash reserves on hand of $29 million.
  3. By using our reserves, we can sustain additional funding or programs without increasing the tax levy.
  4. The state formula undervalues our students by $3.2 million each year

The Davenport Community School District is comprised of nearly 16,000 students with a 67.3% free and reduced lunch population. The district’s Board of Education and I have been transparent in describing the critical challenges which face our schools and students. Our most notable challenges are achievement rates which do not meet our standards; a wide achievement gap between many subgroups, which is absolutely unacceptable; a dropout rate which, although significantly improved, still reflects that too many students are leaving our schools each year before graduation; and a suspension rate which, although it reflects national trends, is problematic. By its board priorities, the Directors acknowledge the overriding effects of poverty on education in the district.

For over four years this district has been involved in significant reform efforts to address our challenges. Our Board of Education, administrators, teachers, and staff are focused on implementing programs which provide amazing supports for our students and families. With over 18 years’ experience as a superintendent in four states and five school districts, I can say without reservation that I have never seen an organization more committed to success than Davenport. As I visit the schools, I personally witness the sacrifices made on behalf of students. Our schools are making herculean efforts which reach far beyond the mission of education.  This is a caring district.

All that being said, the fact is that we do not have adequate resources to provide appropriate response measures to meet our challenges. Instead of adding needed supports and interventions, we have been reducing our budget for over a decade.

Davenport Community School District is one of 165 districts in the state of Iowa which receives less money per student than a group of 173 higher-compensated districts. The “I’m Worth-Less” t-shirt is literally correct. Our students are valued less than many others in the state. This unfair situation has evolved from the early 1970’s when the state funding formula was enacted, and carries forward to the present day where the value placed on our students is $175 less than the value for other students in districts which receive the highest per student rate in the state. In other words, the state funding formula is explicit in valuing a Davenport student less than students in over 170 other districts, including, for example, Pleasant Valley and Bettendorf. How can this be right in any universe?

If Davenport students had the same per pupil value as the highest compensated districts in the state of Iowa, this year and next we would receive an additional $3.2 million to spend on our students. I need to repeat that: Because Davenport students have less per pupil value in the state funding formula, we receive $3.2 million less than equity would dictate. How is this fair? How is this equitable? How can we accept that our students have less funding value than students in PV or Bettendorf?

It is hard for me to even conceive how a state government could have allowed this discriminatory practice to exist for so long. In the last five years, Davenport School District would have received an additional $17,352,998 had we been getting the highest per pupil compensation. Instead, in the last five years, the district has had to reduce its budget by a total of $17,272,791, almost the exact amount that we were denied by a system which discriminates against almost half the districts in the state.

Next year I will retain several logical reductions in the budget: 1) early retirement, 2) utility savings through an energy conservation program, 3) moving maintenance contracts from general fund to management fund, and 4) curtailment of professional development during the school day. The total of these cuts will be $1,405,000. I will be making no other reductions to programs and personnel, and most notably, I will not be increasing class size in order to reduce teacher positions. There will be the normal minor changes in teacher positions due to using our staffing guide, and I will continue to look for savings in department budgets and through possible consolidation of leadership positions. But I cannot with a clear conscience make reductions which will damage student achievement when the undervaluing of our students is institutionalized by the funding formula of the state. I want to prove to the students, parents, and employees of this district that they have equal value to any school district in the state.

In addition to taking fewer budget reductions than I had originally proposed, I intend to use up to $1 million to support new programs designed to reduce our achievement gap, to fight the effects of poverty, and to address diversion programs needed to turn around our out-of-school suspension numbers. We must enact these new systems of supports to turn around situations and inequities that are unacceptable. We cannot continue business as usual.

By not reducing the budget as previously planned, and by adding new essential programs, the plan to increase the unspent balance to $8 million over time will be negatively impacted.  This places me on a glide path to violate the state law during the 2016 – 2017 school year when we spend more than authorized, but not more than we have in cash reserves. But I have a plan to build up the reserve fund and to be fiscally responsible.   My plan is simple: To be relentless in pressuring the state to change the law so that Davenport students will receive the same per pupil dollars as the highest compensated districts in the state, and to push for immediate passage of a law which will let us spend cash reserves to increase our per pupil expenditures. When the district and our students have equal value in the state, we will be back on track for constituting an unspent balance and not overspending the authorized budget.

We can’t continue to reduce programs and expect that all our great ideas and intentions will turn the tide. As the leader of this district, I cannot turn a blind eye to our needs, knowing that there are practices and programs which can make a measurable difference in our results. We all know the impact that poverty makes on our community and upon education. I cannot sit idly by and pretend that we can make $3.5 million in reductions to our budget next year, and that things will be OK; things will not be OK. We have to be bold, we have to employ proven techniques, and we have to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of our students and community. I feel a personal obligation to provide this community with the best education system possible. We cannot do that without reasonable resources. We cannot accomplish our mission until our students are valued equally with all other students in this state.

It is important to point out that we have $29 million in cash reserves in the bank, and no additional levies are needed to accomplish my plan. We have the cash to pay for every program and position without increasing taxes. We just do not have state authorization to spend more because the formula undervalues our students.  Everyone must understand that if our students were valued the same as the highest per pupil students in the state, if there were equality of funding, if all districts were treated the same, we would have $3.2 million more to spend, and I would not have to break the law in order to support my district.

In short, I care more about our students and their needs than I do about the state law in this case.

Sincerely,

Dr. Arthur W. Tate, Superintendent

Cancer In Iowa 2015 Report Released

On Friday, the State Health Registry released their annual report on cancer in Iowa which estimates 16,900 new cancers will be diagnosed among Iowa residents in 2015. In addition, an estimated 6,400 Iowans will die from cancer.

“Cancer and heart disease remain the leading causes of death in Iowa,” says Mary Charlton, assistant professor of epidemiology at the UI College of Public Health. “The distribution and frequency of the different types of cancer are similar to what we’ve seen in recent years.” According to Charlton, lung cancer will be the most common cause of cancer death for both males and females, accounting for one out of every four cancer deaths in Iowa.

According to the report, skin melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers in Iowa and is the fifth most common cancer in both males and females. Experts say several factors have likely contributed to the increase, including increased early exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, heightened public awareness and earlier diagnosis.

Charlton notes that some of the increase can be attributed to changes in reporting terminology. “In the 1970’s many noninvasive reportable skin melanoma cases (confined to the top layers of skin) were likely classified as a lesser lesion or something other than cancer,” she says. “We’re also seeing increased awareness and surveillance by health care providers, which is a positive as early detection is the key to better survival rates.”

According to the report, melanoma rates are the third most common cancer in adolescents and young adults. In Iowa, as with the Unites States in general, men have a higher rate of melanoma than women overall, but this varies by age, with young women having higher rates than young men.

“Young women, especially those with a history of intense sun exposure early in life and tanning bed use before age 30 are at high risk,” says Brian Swick, clinical associate professor of dermatology and pathology at the UI Carver College of Medicine. “From age 50 on, significantly more men than women develop melanoma with the majority of people diagnosed with melanoma being white men over the age of 50.”

George Weiner, director of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI, says research had led to significant advances over the past several years in melanoma therapy, and that researchers at the UI are working to find even better ways to treat advanced melanoma. “This research extends from studies exploring the molecular causes of melanoma through development and testing of new targeted therapies and immunotherapies for patients with melanoma,” he says.

The State Health Registry of Iowa has been gathering cancer incidence and follow-up data for the state since 1973.

ISU Study: Marriage More Likely To End In Divorce When Wives Get Sick

According to a new study by Amelia Karraker, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at Iowa State University, marriage is more likely to end in divorce when wives get sick; however, a husband’s illness did not increase the rate of divorce according to the study.

The study, published in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, found a 6 percent higher probability of divorce for couples in which wives got sick compared to marriages in which wives remained healthy.

“There is a difference between feeling too sick to make dinner and needing someone to actually feed you. That’s something that can really change the dynamics within a marriage,” Karraker said. “If your spouse is too sick to work, we know that financial strain is a major predictor of divorce in and of itself.”

“Quality of care is another factor. Wives are generally less satisfied with the care from their husbands”, Karraker said. “That’s because men, especially older men, have not been socialized to be caregivers in the same way women have, and are less comfortable in that role.”

Karraker and colleague, Kenzie Latham, an assistant professor at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, used data from the Health and Retirement Study, which does not indicate whether the husband or wife initiated the divorce.

“Life or death experiences may cause people to re-evaluate what’s important in their lives,” Karraker said. “It could be that women are saying, ‘You’re doing a bad job of caring for me. I’m not happy with this, or I wasn’t happy with the relationship to begin with, and I’d rather be alone than be in a bad marriage.’”

Of the 2,701 marriages included in their study, 32 percent ended in divorce, compared to 24 percent due to widowhood. The marriage data covered a nearly 20-year time-frame and one spouse had to be at least 51 years old at the beginning of that period. Divorce was more common when respondents in the study were younger, whereas death was more likely as respondents got older. Researchers found the probability of widowhood increased by 5 percent when husbands got sick and 4 percent when wives got sick.

“I think the research shows the potential vulnerabilities for people in society who are sick. There is an elevated risk for depression with illness and now you’re also at risk for divorce,” Karraker said. “People in poor health may have less access to beneficial social relationships, which in turn can compromise their health further.”

Researchers focused the study on four illnesses – cancer, heart disease, lung disease and stroke – to determine if the type or severity made a difference in divorce rates. While there was some variation, the results for each individual illness were not statistically significant.

According to Iowa State, Karraker’s interest in studying illness and marriage was sparked by criticism of politicians, such as John Edwards and Newt Gingrich, for divorcing their sick wives.

Photo Credit: By Petar Milošević (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons