Mark Bennett: Public Well being Evaluation May Brighten Hoosier’s Future | Information columns
An unhealthy child can have difficulty studying in school. Unhealthy adults may work sporadically or not at all.
Families with a chronically ill child or adult may need public programs and boards even if the parents have two or three low-income jobs.
Mental illness and addictions make it difficult for a person to leave a criminal life. Children exposed to violence at home can act aggressively in school.
These and other trends are documented by medical science and criminal law sources such as the US Department for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and the US Department of Justice. But anyone who lives in an unhealthy community or state easily experiences the consequences of such a culture, whether they recognize the causes or not.
That’s a lot of Indiana in normal times.
Then add a global pandemic. All of these scenarios intensify beyond previous levels as staff in hospitals, clinics, and local health authorities scramble to treat and protect the public and try to stay healthy themselves. This is Indiana now.
Governor Eric Holcomb could truly be a transformative legacy if his new annual public health commission succeeds. Holcomb and State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box revealed the commission during a press conference that was live-streamed across the country on Wednesday. He acknowledged the state’s unhealthiness beyond the current surge in the COVID-19 delta variant.
“You could say that’s our Achilles heel,” said Holcomb.
Yes, you could say that. Indiana ranks consistently at the bottom for health behaviors, earnings, and spending at the national level. The newest Cleveland-based nonprofit Health Action Council ranked Indiana 42nd for health outcomes and spending in June. Like similar rankings, these were based on access to care, health system performance, public health, prevention, and the social, physical, and economic environment of the state.
Poor health and unhealthy behavior impact almost every aspect of Hoosier’s daily life, from the reliability of the workforce, to an undernourished third grader’s ability to focus on his teachers’ math classes, to the overcrowded local prisons.
A full investigation into this ongoing problem is “long overdue,” said Holcomb.
He set up a 15-person commission to spend the next year assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the state’s current public health system, including the efforts of 94 local health authorities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel will recommend improvements in the delivery of public health services, ways to promote equity in health and ensure the sustainability of local health authorities, including preparing for future health emergencies. Its co-chairs are former State Senator Luke Kenley and former State Health Commissioner Dr. Judy Monroe.
The panel will also “address funding challenges” and propose legislative changes to implement its recommendations in time for the 2023 legislative session. These two tasks are great, perhaps the greatest of them all. If the General Assembly does not take public health more seriously – such as by providing meaningful resources and respecting public health professionals – the work of the commission will slow down and Indiana will be faced with high levels of chronic illness, labor shortages and high numbers of children. those who live in poverty carry on.
And be unnecessarily more vulnerable to global pandemics.
According to calculations by the University of Minnesota State Health Access Assistance Data Center, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Indiana ranked 47th – almost last – in per capita public health funding in 2020.
A problem that both Holcomb and Dr. Box cited is the uneven funding and resources for the state’s local health authorities. It’s a 140-year-old system with “very little standardization,” said Holcomb.
Box, a native of Terre Haute, described the mountainous work local health officials have faced over the past 18 months. In addition to organizing and staffing contact tracing, testing, and vaccination clinics, the departments must continue to manage birth and death records, permits for septic systems, check lead levels in children, examine other diseases, control mosquitoes, inspect food plants, respond to bat infestations, and more Routine tasks.
“Your resources are scarce at the best of times, and completing these required tasks in the pandemic has become a Herculean task,” Box said.
Public health workers “are really passionate” about their communities, she added. “They have lost sleep, sacrificed their own health, and given up time with their families to protect others. They deserve all of our thanks, but also our help.”
Services, schools and businesses will close in spring 2020, with some shifting to remote workforce. The Vigo County Health Department continued to work in the county annex, “with even fewer staff because some had health problems, were of a certain age or had to stay at home with their children so they could stay at home,” said Administrator Joni Wise Thursday remind. “So we had a small number of employees before the pandemic, and then it became a skeletal crew.”
She added, “We are understaffed and underfunded.”
Thanks to politics and myths, nationwide remedial action will not be easy. Holcomb chose his words carefully when asked by a reporter on Wednesday how the commission felt deeply suspicious of health professionals (shaken by relentless misinformation on social media) among a segment of the public and a state legislature that only recently emerged Spring took authority, can be successful away from the local health authorities and the governor himself during a public health crisis like the one we are still experiencing.
“We will all work every day to make sure people are the best informed and, with government support, best equipped to make good, localized decisions,” said Holcomb, referring to Box, Kenley and Monroe.
Insisting not to evade the reporter’s question, the governor added, “There is nothing I can do about the global myth-spreaders on social media, but I can make sure people have good, localized, trustworthy, and verified government information. And I’ve never been more proud of our healthcare professionals – local, state, and federal – to ensure we publish data with integrity. “
Indiana’s reality could be a healthier, more active, and more productive future if politics and myths don’t block that possibility.
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or [email protected]