Leaders from the health care, advocacy and business communities are coming together to tackle the state’s historic health care struggles. The Alliance for a Healthier Indiana says its first task will be to put a dent in the high rate of tobacco use, which is considered the leading cause of preventable death in the state. Indianapolis-based Community Health Network Chief Executive Officer Bryan Mills is spearheading the collaboration and says the effects of poor health ripple throughout all phases of life and harm Indiana’s national reputation.
Mills says the concept was born out of his embarrassment from reading Indiana health statistics. According to the recently-released America’s Health Rankings, Indiana is 41st for overall health of citizens and below average in all but nine of the 34 measures the group publishes. Indiana ranks near the bottom in metrics including the aforementioned smoking rate, as well as drug deaths, infant mortality, obesity and public health funding.
Indiana Hospital Association President Doug Leonard says it’s "high time" stakeholders join forces. "There are a lot of people out there when they’re looking for where they want to plant their high-tech business, they want to know ‘is this a state that I can recruit young, vibrant people to that they’re going to feel like it’s healthy?’" Leonard told Inside INdiana Business. "Indiana has a lot of things going for it, but in terms of reputation as a healthy place, you stack us up against many other state’s where there’s just a historical culture of health and we look miserable."
The alliance says tobacco-related issues cost Indiana a total of $6 billion annually. Leaders plan to assist Tobacco Free Indiana in a push to increase the state tobacco tax and bump up state cessation and prevention efforts through the General Assembly. The alliance will also advocate for bumping up the legal smoking age to 21 and repealing an special treatment for smokers.
The primary players in the alliance are the Indiana Hospital Association, Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Indiana State Medical Association and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Indiana. Mills says if the organization can help solve the tobacco issue, it will move on to tackle even more complex issues where Indiana’s ranking is "shockingly poor" like obesity, opioid addiction or cancer rates.
You can connect to more about the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana by clicking here.