By: Jennifer Hurtubise—
Muncie, IN—Delaware County ranks 85th out of Indiana’s 92 counties in overall health outcomes. Thirty-one percent of the adults living in the county are considered obese, and there are 24.6 drug overdose deaths annually per 100,000 population, compared to the national average of 15.6. Twenty percent of Delaware County’s residents smoke, and the mother smoked during pregnancy in 22.3 percent of births—more than three times the national average of 7.2 percent.
These poor health rankings limit the county’s ability to grow and prosper. But a coalition of community and business leaders from across the state wants to help.
The Alliance for a Healthier Indiana is hosting a town hall meeting in Muncie as part of its 2018 State of Our Health Road Show. The meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 13, from 7:30 to 11 a.m. at the Ball State Alumni Center.
At the meeting, community leaders and concerned citizens will come together to hear about the Alliance’s plans for 2018 and beyond. These include raising awareness of Indiana’s poor health rankings and sharing ideas about ways communities can work together to improve Hoosier health.
“The Alliance for a Healthier Indiana was created to tackle Indiana’s most pressing public health issues—smoking, obesity, infant mortality, and the opioid epidemic,” said Bryan Mills, president and CEO of Community Health Network and chair of the Alliance. “Because we are committed to improving the health of all Hoosiers, we’re taking our message on the road to build awareness and rally grassroots support for policy change at the Statehouse in 2019.”
Indiana is ranked 38th in the nation in overall health according to the 2017 America’s Health Rankings annual report. The Hoosier state also ranks among the worst in the nation in the following categories:
- 34th in drug deaths
- 40th in obesity
- 41st in percentage of smokers
- 42nd in infant mortality
- 49th in public health funding
The Alliance’s top policy priority is to reduce Indiana’s high smoking rate by raising the state’s cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack. Twenty-one percent of Hoosier adults smoke, costing the state billions of dollars in unnecessary health care costs. The state cigarette tax has not been raised since 2007 and is currently well below the national average at under $1.00 per pack. Raising the price of cigarettes is a proven solution that would help 50,000 Hoosier adults quit, prevent 40,000 Hoosier kids from starting, and protect 10,000 Hoosier babies from the effects of secondhand smoke. In addition, the increase would generate $315 million in its first year that could go toward local public health programs, including opioid prevention and treatment.
“I have been a member of the medical community in Muncie for almost 35 years now as both a private practice physician and as a health care executive, and I have seen how Indiana’s poor health rankings impact our residents and our community as a whole,” said Dr. Jeff Bird, president of IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, the only hospital in Muncie. “It’s time we make a change. We need to address the underlying causes of these rankings, and we need to do it now.”
Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions from and share ideas with a number of expert presenters, including:
- Geoffrey S. Mearns,D., President, Ball State University
- Dennis Tyler, Mayor of Muncie
- Jeff Bird, President, IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital
- Hank Milius, President and CEO, Meridian Health Services
- Cynthia Meneghini, Physician, Community Health Network
- Katie Kincaid, Data and Research Manager, Indiana Youth Institute
- Delaware County PRIDE Team
- Jane Ellery,D., Assistant Professor of Wellness Management, Ball State University,
- Bryan Ayars, CEO, Open Door Health Services, and Member, Community Drug Task Force of Delaware County
- Steve Smith, CEO, Mid-West Metal Products
- Nathan Taylor, Wellness Coordinator, Youth Opportunity Center, and Creator/Co-Facilitator, Delaware County Wellness Professionals
- Rhonda Wilson, Director of Health Enhancement, Ball State University
- John Disher, Community Outreach Coordinator, IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital Foundation, and representative of the Healthy Community Alliance of Delaware and Blackford Counties
- Brian Tabor, President, Indiana Hospital Association
“At Ball State University, we strive to reimagine and recreate the future. Perhaps nothing can make a bigger impact on the future of our state than the improved health of its residents,” said Geoffrey S. Mearns, J.D., president of Ball State University. “We are pleased to host this town hall meeting and provide an opportunity for leaders from our community to come together to identify solutions to the public health crises affecting Indiana.”
The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Special thanks to Ball State University, IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, Henry Community Health, Meridian Health Services, and Covering Kids & Families of Indiana for their support of the Muncie Town Hall.
For more information on the Alliance and the health care issues facing the state, visit HealthierIndiana.org.
Jennifer Hurtubise is the vice president of communications for the Indiana Hospital Association (IHA). IHA is one of the founding members of the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana, along with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the Indiana State Medical Association, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Indiana, and the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI.