Iowa DPS participate in prof’s study

Maria Ball

Iowa Department of Public Safety officials are working to maintain their health with the help of ISU faculty and students.Warren Franke, associate professor of health and human performance, has been in charge of giving officers their physicals for the past nine years. Franke said they are the “guinea pigs” for his research on the relationship between heart disease and the law enforcement profession.Every year, 600 sworn peace officers arrive for their required annual physicals at Iowa State. About 15 ISU students assist Franke, and he said the officers make the trip to Ames because of his approach to preventive medicine.”We say, ‘OK, you’re not sick, so how can we keep you that way?'” Franke said.Iowa officers from the Division of Criminal Investigation, the Division of Narcotics Enforcement, the Fire Marshall Division, the State Patrol Division and the Capitol Patrol Division participate in the study, he said.Franke said he has found Iowa DPS retirees have a higher than expected incidence of heart disease even though their risk factors are similar to those of people of the same age, gender and race. It’s not because of their eating habits, but the heart disease is a result of high blood pressure due to job-related stress, Franke said.Increased pressure from their employers and working unusual hours also contribute to officers’ high stress levels, he said, in addition to normal everyday activities.Scott Chadwick, assistant professor of journalism and mass communication, has been working with Franke to assess and correct the current hierarchical communication structure at the Iowa DPS.”We’re trying to change communication in the organizational structure of the Iowa Department of Public Safety to reduce their stress and, ultimately, their risk of cardiovascular disease,” he said.Franke and Chadwick began to implement changes at the Iowa DPS late last summer, and they started collecting data in the fall.Those changes include encouraging decision-making, training employees in systems-thinking and educating people in performance measurement throughout the organization, Chadwick said. However, he said it is too soon to see if the changes will have an impact.