Four Steps to a Healthier Indiana

Four Steps to a Healthier Indiana

The health of Indiana’s economy is directly tied to the health of our bodies. To grossly oversimplify things, it’s a lot cheaper and more productive to be healthier. But it’s no secret that Indiana scores near the bottom in public health categories and has for some time. It’s something we need to fix.

According to some recent research from the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, one of the ways we can target the problem is by taking several steps to broaden and improve our public health system. The logic is that a more proactive approach to wellness will help our state avoid as many preventable medical conditions as we can.

“It costs a lot less to keep people healthy than it does to make them well again, but we historically spend less than 3 percent of our health dollars on public health promotion and prevention,” Valerie Yeager, associate professor of health policy and management and the report’s lead. “We have to change this narrative and invest in keeping people healthy.”

“There is a bidirectional relationship between health and wealth – for individuals and for the communities in which they live. Strategic investments in our public health system can improve health among all Hoosiers, creating opportunity for people and communities that need it the most,” said Yeager.


Where We Are

The research from IUPIU outlined several important facts about where the state ranks in comparison to others regarding overall health. Those facts indicated that we have plenty of room for improvement.

  • Indiana ranks 41st of the 50 states for overall health.
  • Indiana ranks 48th for public health funding. This contributes to higher levels of preventable disease and injuries, which means higher medical costs.
  • Of Indiana’s 94 local health departments, 37 have budgets of less than $10 per capita – well below the national median of $41 per capita.


Four Steps to a Healthier Indiana

More than a dozen steps and best practices were described that state and local health departments could take to improve the capacity and effectiveness of Indiana’s public health system. These boiled down into four primary recommendations. The endgame here is to develop a system that works to protect and improve the health of people and communities, which will also have the positive side effect of bolstering economic strength.

The four overarching recommendations were:

  • Create a uniform approach to deliver foundational public health services across the state.
  • Create a district-level mechanism to enable resource sharing among local health departments.
  • Strengthen the state health department’s oversight and support of local health departments.
  • Create a multidisciplinary statewide committee tasked with executing all of the steps outlined in the report.


Estimates of Costs and Gains

Understandably, transformative processes like the ones detailed by the authors are going to come at a cost. But there are also a lot of rewards we’ll be reaping as well.

A total annual public health spending increase of about $420 million was tallied in the report. This included costs for things like salaries, facilities, administrative costs, increased service capacities, and system capability improvements.

In return, these investments could provide about $518 million in reduced medical costs by their tenth year. This could also have numerous indirect benefits surrounding economic development and growth, as it will present workers with fewer health interruptions along their career pathways. The authors estimate these improvements to public health could also prevent almost 5,000 deaths per year and extend life expectancies for low-income households.


If We Get Healthy, We’ll Save Money

By streamlining and increasing investment in our public health system, the state of Indiana has an opportunity to stem the financial losses that result from poor population health. And according to the research, this type of investment has a fairly good outlook. There’s a lot for us to gain across a range of different levels, provided that we work to address and prevent health problems before they become major issues. When we’re able to keep people well, we can keep Indiana focused on getting things done.

Category Features, Health