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New IU Health fund addresses social issues that affect health

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Indiana University Health is investing $100 million in a fund that will address social issues affecting health outcomes around the state.

The Community Impact Investment Fund will be administered by the Indiana University Health Foundation, the philanthropic arm of IU Health. Funds will be distributed annually and go to initiatives in four main areas: healthy living, education, workforce development, and improving neighborhoods and alleviating poverty.

Healthy living is a straightforward initiative for a fund addressing health outcomes, but what do education and workforce development and poverty have to do with it?

Health outcome determinants can be broken down like this: 20% is dependent on the health care a person receives, 10% is determined by genetics, and the rest depends on social determinants, according to IU Health President and CEO Dennis Murphy.

That means economic stability, neighborhood environment, food access — these things not only impact health, they actually can be more influential than health care or genetics when it comes to health outcomes.

“We’re really trying to get upstream on some of those things that impact people’s health,” Murphy said.

The health industry hasn’t made a good effort to try to impact these issues on the peripheral of health outcomes, Murphy said, which is why he feels this IU Health fund will be different from others.

“We typically waited for people to come to our four walls,” he said, “whether it was our clinic or our emergency room.” “… This is something different for us.”

The most common understanding of how social and environmental issues affect health is probably through adverse childhood experiences, or ACES, which include trauma such as racism and poverty.

The first round of funding, which has already been awarded, includes a program called Reduce Social Isolation Through Spiritual Care. The foundation is investing $1.37 million over three years to help faith congregations work with hospitals to provide care for those who are socially isolated and suffer from issues such as depression and anxiety.

For some minority groups, including African Americans, people may feel more comfortable going to a faith leader rather than a health professional.

The key, Murphy said, is admitting “we don’t know the answers” and need partners in the community to tell them what the issues are and how to address them.

Another $1 million in this initial round of funding is going to health clinics in underserved areas in Marion County for a three-year program to help reduce maternal and infant mortality. The goal is to expand this program around the state.

Indiana has one of the worst rates of mothers dying while pregnant or within a year after having a baby, and it’s even worse for Black women. Some 53 Black mothers die for every 100,000 live births, a rate on par with Iraq and Vietnam, according to data from the federal government.

Other funding will address opioid abuse in Bloomington and a neighborhood revitalization project in Muncie.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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