IU Health earmarks $100M for new fund to address issues that lead to poor health

Indiana University Health announced Tuesday morning it is investing $100 million in a fund that will award yearly grants to address social and environmental issues that often result in poor health.

The state’s largest health system says it wants to partner with outside groups to address unhealthy behavior and environmental risk factors such as social isolation, substandard housing and food insecurity. In a state plagued by high rates of smoking, infant mortality, opioid use and physical inactivity, there is no shortage of problems to work on.

“Health care must go beyond treatments in a medical setting,” said Dennis Murphy, president and CEO of IU Health.

The new fund, called the IU Health Community Impact Investment Fund, is designed to address critical health issues affecting Hoosiers over the long term, he said. The IU Health Foundation will administer the fund, and has already made the first round of four grants in these areas:

  • $1 million over three years to help reduce infant and maternal mortality rates in Indiana. The program will focus on family education and access to providers and contraception in underserved clinics in Marion County, and on expanding care to rural clinics throughout the state.
  • $1.05 million over three years to support the efforts of the Monroe County Substance Use Disorder Coalition. The coalition is launching a 24-hour crisis center, operated by Centerstone, for people facing a substance-use crisis. The program will divert individuals who might otherwise go to jail or an emergency room to a “therapeutic alternative better able to help.” The program is supported with additional investments from Cook Group, Bloomington Health Foundation, the city of Bloomington and other groups.
  • $1.37 million over three years to help faith congregations work with hospitals to care for those who are socially isolated and suffer from depression, anxiety or loss.
  • $1 million over three years to revitalize two neighborhoods in Muncie, Thomas Park-Avondale and South Central, that are struggling with food insecurity, poverty, substance-use disorders, unsafe housing, low educational levels and lack of health care access. IU Health’s Ball Memorial Hospital and the 8twelve Coalition will use the funding for new trails, bike lanes and an expanded sports center, along with greater food accessibility and more housing options.

IU Health said it reviewed 47 proposals for the grants over a wide spectrum of needs, including smoking, obesity, addictions, infant mortality, workforce issues, housing and neighborhoods.

The Indianapolis-based health system, with more than 1,800 doctors, operates 16 hospitals and dozens of clinics and offices from Monticello to Paoli. But it said it wanted to focus on issues outside of its hospital walls. Research shows than 70% of health measures are dependent on personal behaviors and environmental factors.

Murphy said IU Health’s board asked the leadership team to do more to help people stay healthy “and not just think about the things that happen when patients show up at your doorstep.”

The health system looked for proposals that would involve outside partners that could help get the projects and programs up and running, rather than relying solely on IU Health doctors, nurses and administrators.

“We don’t profess to have the answers or the solutions on this,” Murphy said. “And, actually, we believe these would be better projects if we were working with other people.”

He pointed out that the $100 million commitment will be in addition to other community benefits by IU Health, which last year amounted to $711 million in the form of free care, investments in community health services, medical education, financial and in-kind contributions, and losses on federal health care programs.

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2 thoughts on “IU Health earmarks $100M for new fund to address issues that lead to poor health

  1. IU Health should be commended for investing $100 million in our community. However, I have two questions: whose money is this and who should be making these community investment decisions?

    A hospital reasonably needs to generate a margin in order to invest in itself and some level of community support is a requirement of hospitals’ not-for profit status. However, a recent study found that IU Health’s prices are among the highest in the nation. High hospital prices act as a tax on local schools, cities, counties and private businesses with the effect that they lower employee salaries, compromise private and public budgets and slow economic growth.

    This suggests that hospital prices above those necessary to efficiently provide care to patients, maintain and improve infrastructure and maintain its not-for-profit status are harmful to the community. I understand that IU Health is on its way to a profit of over a billion dollars this year.

    Since Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements do not cover the full cost of care for their beneficiaries at most hospitals, all of IU Health’s operating profits derive from local employers and the wages of their employees. Shouldn’t these people decide where their money is spent? How is it good socio-economic policy or prudent fiscal practice to fund various social agencies and community investments through a health system. Shouldn’t a health system be focused on taking care of patients, not generating excess funds to engage in economic development and funding charities? Isn’t this the proper role of our elected representatives?

  2. Sounds like politcs to me. This just a marketing ploy. I’ll be surpsed if this actually helps people who need it. Obviously, IU Hospital is interest in 1 thing….MAKING MONEY. Which doesn’t suprise me with the “care” my chronically ill friends recieve at this hsopital. Cant get them to replace tube or give them enough pain medicine so they can function. I’m not talking about taking away their pain. Jus t give them enough so they do mundane tasks like go to the grocery store and fix dinner. Treats them like drug addicts because of the large amounts of dulatted they have to take just to walk and do daily activities.