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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Iowa Issues Report on Violent Deaths

A new state-based surveillance system is helping Iowa learn more about the circumstances surrounding violent deaths such as suicide.

Iowa released its first report from the Iowa Violent Death Reporting System (IAVDRS), which tracks trends overtime and provides a complete picture – the who, when, where and how of violent deaths. Data from death certificates, medical examiner reports and law enforcement reports are linked together to help state and local practitioners understand the deeper contexts of violent deaths.

The report, Suicide in Iowa, 2015: Iowa Violent Death Reporting System Special Report, is a joint effort by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the University of Iowa College of Public Health’s Injury Prevention Research Center (IPRC).

“The IAVDRS is our first opportunity to examine comprehensive information about Iowa’s traumatic deaths,” said Dr. Corinne Peek-Asa, IPRC director and professor of occupational and environmental health. “This will really help us promote prevention programs and to help all Iowans be more aware of the great impact we can have with prevention.”

The report highlights results from 2015, the year Iowa began using the system, and comprises Iowa’s seven most populous counties; Black Hawk, Johnson, Linn, Pottawattamie, Polk, Scott, and Woodbury.* Nearly 75 percent of violent deaths were from suicide (174 deaths), followed by homicide (18 percent), undetermined (6 percent), legal intervention (1 percent) and unintentional firearm (less than 1 percent).

The most frequently cited circumstances surrounding suicide in Iowa for all ages were depressed mood (83 percent), mental health problem (54 percent), history of mental illness treatment (42 percent) and history of suicidal thoughts (37 percent).

Iowa’s suicide rate increased by 9 percent from 2014 to 2015 and is slightly higher than the national average.

IAVDRS program director Ms. Binnie LeHew of the IDPH said she anticipates IAVDRS data will be of interest to local law enforcement, community service providers and public health partners interested in developing strategies to prevent violent deaths. “It is a valuable resource because it combines information from three data sources to give us a deeper context for understanding violent deaths,” she said.

Iowa is one of 42 states funded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to collect data on violent deaths for the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) and enter the data into a national database.  Researchers and practitioners can access the NVDRS online database to get more comprehensive details surrounding violent deaths.

* All Iowa counties will be included in the 2016 IAVDRS data.