County seeking ‘Indiana Healthy Community’ title

Monday, September 12, 2016

One major threat to continued economic success in Indiana communities is the increasingly poor health of Hoosiers – and the subsequent high health care costs.

A glaring example: The Kaiser Family Foundation ranked Indiana sixth highest for health care costs in 2015.

While workplace wellness has gained attention from employers as a way to combat those costs and improve employee health, the reality is that healthy practices don’t begin or end at work. Wellness has to make it through the front door of the home and into the community.

In May, Putnam County embarked on becoming designated an Indiana Healthy Community. To be designated a healthy community, efforts are expected to be focused on four specific health factors for economic growth and vitality:

• Supporting livable, natural and built environments

• Community practices that make the healthier choice an easier choice.

• Engagement of our citizens on their overall well being.

• Healthier workplaces.

Why is community health considered important to the economic success of Putnam County?

According to a July 2015 report from the Vitality Institute, “Failing to address the environmental and social drivers of workforce health at the community level is a major barrier to the effectiveness of workplace health promotion (wellness).”

Putnam County’s focus on health as a community will provide employees and their circles of influence a better environment to live, work, learn and play.

Putnam County Hospital CEO Dennis Weatherford says, “Part of the mission of Putnam County Hospital is to improve the health status of the residents we serve. We believe that population health improvement can be more powerful when multiple players, including elected officials, area employers and key community leaders, become partners in the effort.

“The more we have at the table,” Weatherford added, “the healthier we will be at the workplace, at home and throughout the community.”

The Indiana Healthy Community Initiative offers guidance for communities tackling their biggest health concerns. The Wellness Council of Indiana (WCI) will help to facilitate best practices and assist communities in developing short- and long-term goals.

A coalition of local partners leads the charge in each community.

“A lot of what we’re trying to do is work with key leaders. Be it your county leaders, your local chamber leaders, your local health care leaders. We want them to lead the effort – what we want to do is come in and help manifest or evolve their existing goals,” Chuck Gillespie, WCI executive director, said.

The Indiana Healthy Community initiative also has support from Greencastle Mayor Bill Dory.

“We are very fortunate that we have a wide range of organizations and companies that are working in this area and that provide the foundation to prosper as an Indiana Healthy Community,” Mayor Dory said. “In addition, we have the local infrastructure, such as our parks, trails, the DePauw Nature Park and other amenities throughout the city and county that can support an active and healthy lifestyle.”

The WCI has been working with several cities and counties as the initiative launches, with Putnam County being the sixth.

So what does Putnam County need to achieve in order to obtain the status of Indiana Healthy Community?

Community leaders have met several times to complete the application process required by WCI. This application enquires about the current state of the community; items such as access to exercise, healthy food options, access to healthcare and many more.

Gillespie has worked with the leaders to bring focus to action items that can be achieved both short and long term, with the end goal of making Putnam County a healthier place to live, work, learn and play.

The coalition of leaders now have a document, referred to as the “one-pager,” that states Putnam County’s initiative with key action items to achieve in order to obtain the Indiana Healthy Community status. The coalition will continue to meet to create action plans for the items listed below.

Putnam County strives to become known throughout Indiana and across the country as a destination place to live, work, learn and play. The plan is to accomplish this by working collectively to provide and promote the support and resources needed to allow residents and employers a choice of “leading a life worth living.” The quality of life focus promotes our community’s “healthy people and assets” to drive economic prosperity.

Healthy attributes

1. Easy and affordable access to multiple forms of recreation for all residents young and old within the county.

2. Diverse career opportunities with a well-trained and educated workforce.

3. Strong existing infrastructure with a focus on improving roads, trails, utilities and broad band.

4. Above average in overall health rankings in Indiana (32nd out of 92).

5. A culture of volunteerism from all residents and workplaces throughout the county.

6. Model school systems and highly respected academic institutions.

Short-term objectives

1. Develop a “list” highlighting the reasons residents and families choose to live in Putnam County

2. Link the county trails. Connected trails lead to higher activity levels and more social interactivity.

3. Promotion of existing community facilities for physical activity, social events, support groups, children’s activities and career training. Take your marketing beyond printed materials.

4. Support for Farmers Market. Encourage new champions and extend Farmers Markets throughout the county.

5. Review joint use agreements with schools and other public use facilities. Determine if Putnam County can better engage the use of public facilities.

6. Promote industrial health and wellness initiatives to encourage a healthier and more productive workforce. Healthier employees are absent less, safer, and cost employers less for health care.

7. Learn from the Stellar Grant and expand the knowledge, skills and opportunities to connect them throughout the county.

Long-term goals

1. Complete streets, farm to work, farm to school, and farm to table initiatives (Built Environment)

2. Consider all of the great natural and built environments throughout the county and focus an economic development campaign on these assets to live, work, learn and play in Putnam County.

3. Develop broad healthy community guidelines and standards to frame specific, desired health-related, process-based outcomes for Putnam County; topic areas include but are not limited to:

a. Active living: transportation and physical fitness.

b. Food/healthy eating.

c. Tobacco use.

d. Access to health care.

e. Safety.

f. Social connectedness.

g. Health equity.

h. Mental health.

i. Diversity.

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