As Indiana grapples with an unfortunate lack of investment in public health infrastructure, Indiana University Health has made a record-setting commitment to the state. Our board recently earmarked $1 billion for community health initiatives and new models of care. This represents one of the largest investments aimed at improving the health of Hoosiers, while also promising to cut the cost of health care. We now have a new opportunity to confront the social causes that help make Indiana one of the nation’s least healthy states more broadly than ever.
The funding comes at a critical time. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought widespread disruption. Alarmingly, health in Indiana is worsening, even as Indiana ranks a dismal 40th among the states for overall public health. Indiana also ranks near the bottom of the states for per-person state public health funding, and it shows. While our state benefits from dedicated providers, Indiana confronts dismaying health metrics, including high rates of smoking and maternal deaths as well as rising incidents of fatal drug poisonings.
As the state’s largest health care system, IU Health is redoubling its efforts to help. The new community health investment initiatives include an additional $100 million for the IU Health Community Impact Investment Fund, which makes annual grants to vital community programs statewide. Another $400 million will go to support digital transformation, clinical advancements and partnerships that bring new technical capabilities for patient care. Lastly, $500 million will be spent in close consultation with IU Health’s government, nonprofit, neighborhood and education partners for health-related developments near the expanding IU Health downtown Indianapolis campus.
Indianapolis hospital: What IU Health’s $1.6 billion downtown hospital will look like
These new community health investment commitments allow IU Health to extend more resources beyond the walls of our hospitals to address the key social impediments to good health. Research and common sense both tell us the environments people live in, along with their lifestyles, education and economic status, play a greater role in determining a person’s health than treatment and care after someone is sick or injured. We also know funds spent making people healthier will lower health care expenses for all, not just those with the resources to have health insurance.
To prepare for the new allocations, IU Health has significantly expanded its community health staffing and programs. Our over 200 doctors’ offices across the state can now consult with behavioral health and other specialists at the touch of a button, so patients needing immediate assistance don’t have to wait for a referral appointment. Similar links allow doctors to connect patients with social workers to help with non-medical needs, such as housing or food insecurity. IU Health is investing heavily to combat infant mortality, support smoking cessation and provide behavioral health services, where needs have grown drastically during the pandemic.
The funding will critically support community health initiatives in the heart of Indianapolis. This is where IU Health is making its largest capital investment in a new acute care hospital that will serve future generations of Hoosiers from all 92 counties. IU Health community health programs in downtown Indianapolis includes a health sciences education program at Crispus Attucks High School and a center for workforce training. Expect much more as IU Health works with partners to roll out new initiatives that impact health, especially in minority communities and among individuals with low incomes and disabilities.
As the new funds are invested over the coming years, IU Health has committed to reducing its prices to the national average by 2025, saving patients and their employers more than $1 billion over five years.
‘Hoosiers are rightfully frustrated’: Health care execs offer no clear plan to lower costs
At the same time, IU Health has advanced a major financial contribution of $416 million to Indiana University School of Medicine, fulfilling IU Health’s unique mission to not only provide patient care to all in need but fund research into new cures and help educate the next generation of health care providers. The new funds will help Indiana University expand its nursing enrollment to combat the state’s nursing shortage, underwrite cutting-edge medical research and health initiatives and recruit more world-class researchers and physicians, including those of diverse backgrounds.
We are convinced these historic funding commitments for community health and new care models from IU Health will be among the most impactful investments ever made in health care for Indiana. They will help Hoosiers achieve better health outcomes — and lower health care costs — by significantly boosting community health spending that has been allowed to languish in Indiana. Few if any goals are more important for our state.
Dennis Murphy is the president and CEO of Indiana University Health.