Crystal Hinson Miller, president of IU Health Foundation, is a national leader in healthcare philanthropy. Here, she shares her personal reflections.
Five years ago, when IU Health launched the IU Health Foundation, it would have been reasonable to assume that the Foundation’s purpose would be fundraising. And while, technically, that is our mission, that one word falls well short of describing what the Foundation was formed to do and what its talented team, our IU Health colleagues and charitable supporters have achieved together.
Let me explain by highlighting a newly formed corporate collaboration.
Earlier this year, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation invested $3.1 million in a collaboration with IU Health and others to be administered by the IU Health Foundation. While we’re obviously delighted by this significant investment, we’re even more excited by the ripples of impact it creates.
Specifically, the Novartis collaboration makes it possible for residents of three medically underserved neighborhoods—Meadows/Martindale-Brightwood, United Northwest Area/Riverside and Near Southeast Side—to get heart screenings and cardiovascular health information at barbershops, salons, churches and other gathering spots. In addition, medical, research and community engagement teams will provide services such as blood pressure screenings and testing for glucose, lipids and hemoglobin A1C, as well as heart-health education and resources, connections to follow-up clinical care, and more.
All of this will be done through the Indianapolis Health Equity, Access, outReach and Treatment (iHEART) coalition, which IU Health formed with the Indiana Clinical and Translational Science Institutes, the Polis Center at IUPUI, and the Fairbanks School of Public Health. iHeart will deliver services addressing higher rates of cardiovascular disease in the targeted neighborhoods.
And the program ultimately will have an impact well beyond those three neighborhoods, as it will serve as a model we plan to replicate in similarly underserved areas across Indiana.
So, yes, we received $3.1 million, but the value goes well beyond the dollar figure. Those funds are helping to put into place an innovative, community-focused health initiative that will save and improve lives. It will help to demonstrate that IU Health isn’t waiting for Hoosiers to come to its care centers when they have health problems but is, instead, going out to Hoosiers to prevent and address problems.
The generous investment is helping us bring together community organizations to address a problem collectively rather than separately in a more splintered fashion. It is helping us forge a relationship with a global corporation and make its team aware of needs and opportunities in our state. And it is allowing us to create a template for care that will reach countless Hoosiers in the years to come.
That is what IU Health Foundation was created to do: to raise money, yes, but also to support innovative approaches to healthcare, form alliances that will strengthen our work, and align resources for greater impact. And, through all of this, to support IU Health in its drive to make Indiana one of the healthiest states in the nation.
Even in the Foundation’s relatively short existence, we have seen incredible changes in our nation’s healthcare. COVID forever altered the way care is delivered, and an increased awareness of healthcare inequities prompted new approaches. At the same time, we have sharpened our attention to those non-healthcare factors—such as home zip code, employment opportunities, access to healthy food and affordable housing, and healthcare literacy—that do so much to shape health outcomes.
This national evolution occurs as we undertake one of the biggest healthcare building projects in modern memory. That timing is perfect, because it gives the 44-acre IU Health medical campus in downtown Indianapolis the opportunity to be built not for the way healthcare is delivered now, but for the way it will be delivered in the future. While a lot of attention is being paid to what will be created inside the walls of the $4.3 billion complex, much of the focus for IU Health is on services being delivered outside the walls, at the community level, to proactively improve the health of Hoosiers.
I am so proud of the IU Health Foundation team, our IU Health colleagues and our generous donors and collaborators – in all that we’ve accomplished in these first five years. But I am even more excited about the next five years, and the decades beyond that. Because we are doing much more than raising money. We are improving the health of Hoosiers and, along the way, changing healthcare in ways that will make it more equitable, accessible and effective. Thanks to all who have been and will be a part of that process.