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Crystal Hinson Miller, president of IU Health Foundation, is a national leader in healthcare philanthropy. Here, she shares her personal reflections.
This is why IU Health Foundation raises funds to support a center where people in a substance use crisis can go for immediate and specialized help, instead of going to jail. And why we support faith communities and their efforts to reach out to isolated people. Or why we help to pay for walking trails and home repairs.
Efforts like these improve the well-being of all Indiana communities.
I realize that some people might think it’s odd that a Foundation focused on a hospital system would fund such activities. Hospitals traditionally have been places where people go when they get sick or injured. But a few decades ago, we started seeing a shift with hospital systems ... realizing that waiting until somebody is sick or injured to jump into action does little to improve community health.
As this prevention mindset initially took root, we saw it in the form of hospitals providing community health screenings, testing for diseases and undertaking other preventive activities. While those efforts did help, over time we saw that we could do even more by going even further “upstream.” Today, IU Health is pioneering ways to address broader factors that contribute to poor community health – factors commonly known as the social determinants of health.
A key to this effort is the IU Health Community Impact Investment Fund (CII). Launched in 2018 with $100 million and recently raised to $200 million, this fund administered by IU Health Foundation has issued grants totaling $8.6 million and leveraged another $1.8 million for initiatives that address four key areas: healthy living, educational attainment, workforce development and place-based solutions to improve neighborhoods and alleviate poverty.
While “healthy living” might seem like a logical goal for a hospital system, those other factors could seem to be outside our usual scope. But we see them as integral to improving Hoosiers’ overall health.
And we’re already seeing results.
For example, Shadreck Kamwendo, who manages the IU Health Congregation Care Network (CCN), recently shared with me that CII funding has helped reduce the social isolation that can contribute to poor health. In 2021, he said, CCN worked with faith communities in Marion and Monroe counties to provide companionship to more than 300 patients discharged to homes where they lived alone or to long-term care facilities. CCN’s work helped to reduce inpatient re-admissions among these patients by 64% and reduce emergency department visits by 24%.
In Bloomington, CII funds allowed IU Health to join the Stride Coalition in opening a 24-hour crisis diversion center for people with substance use disorder. IU Health South Central Region President Brian Shockney told me that the partnership allows people to get the help they need without going through the criminal justice system or unnecessary hospitalizations. Not only does this help them access treatment sooner, but it helps them avoid fallout, such as a criminal record that would limit future opportunities.
Another example is the CII-funded PATH4YOU program, which improves the health of women and babies by delivering reproductive health services throughout Indiana. Tracey Wilkinson, MD, MPH, explained to me that CII funds help to ensure that these services are available to marginalized communities, where a lack of access is an ongoing threat to maternal and infant health.
In the Muncie area, CII funds have been used in collaboration with the 8Twelve Coalition to help boost a community hit hard by the loss of industry. IU Health East Central Region President Dr. Jeff Bird described how walking trails and recreational facilities put in place by the 8Twelve Coalition have given children and families opportunities for increased physical activity, and how complementary programs have provided access to fresh produce, supported housing improvement, and addressed other economic and social conditions that influence individual health.
Under the old paradigm, such activities would have seemed beyond the scope of a hospital system. Now, through the work of the Community Impact Investment Fund, we see how fully they align with traditional hospital goals. We also see how philanthropy makes such proactive care possible, and how our communities become healthier as a result.
Your support of IU Health Foundation is helping IU Health become a force for health in Indiana rather than simply a resource for responding to illness and injury. We’re confident that this approach will help us achieve our goal of making Indiana one of the healthiest states in the nation, and ensure that more people have the opportunities to enjoy lives lived in healthy communities.