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.