Since 1996, Community Health Network has participated in the local and surrounding counties’ community health needs assessments. These assessments have been the springboard to understanding and implementing strategies and programs that have targeted populations in need with specific outcomes.
These assessments give us a snapshot of the community, but the ongoing input from community groups—through feedback channels established by and for our community benefit plan—is just as important, and also drives our planning and actions. Through the feedback we have collected, we have learned what matters to the average person in the region we serve… that fairness, justice and compassion are integral to creating healthier communities. In keeping with our organization’s mission statement, we work together with our community partners to enhance not only health but overall well-being.
In the Community Benefit report, we highlight categories that reflect how we address the factors impacting the health of those whom we serve:
- Cultural impact—Fostering a vibrant community with access to parks, cultural institutions, safe streets and homes.
- Economic stabilization—Ensuring that residents have a job and the financial resources necessary to lead a healthy life.
- Education support—Improving access to quality education.
- Health care—Providing access to quality health care for all, regardless of their ability to afford it.
- Social protection—Offering support for those who don’t have the same opportunities to be as healthy as others.
Please read on to learn more about our organization’s community benefit. We begin where our communities are.
Giving everyone access to healthcare
In September 2009, the Jane Pauley Community Health Center opened its doors to provide basic health services to east side residents, regardless of income or insurance coverage. The results of its first year indicate the scope of the need, and our success in meeting that need.
The Jane Pauley Community Health Center was launched jointly by Community Health Network and Warren Township schools to provide access to quality care for underserved populations. Says its namesake, east side Indianapolis native and former NBC news anchor Jane Pauley, “this idea works for health care, it works for community building, it works for cost savings, it works for keeping children in their seats in schools.”
In its first year alone, the center had tremendous impact on the health and well-being of the Indianapolis community. More than 1,800 patient visits were recorded in the first 12 months, 40 percent of which were repeat visits by patients who discovered the center to be a much needed medical home that they did not have before. Only about a third of the patients had insurance coverage, Medicare or Medicaid. Many of the others qualified for financial assistance to pay for their care.
The model, which delivers comprehensive medical and behavioral health care to the underserved from an easy-to-access location in a public school, can easily be replicated elsewhere. Following the first year’s experience, Pauley and Community Health Network leaders shared the details of the center at a conference of the Indiana School Boards Association, with the hope of inspiring similar initiatives in cities across Indiana.
Putting healthy kids in the classroom
“Healthy kids perform well in school,” says an Indianapolis elementary school principal. That’s why this principal welcomes the efforts of Community Health Network, which has established wellness clinics in his school and others in the Indianapolis area.
As part of the wellness component, Community’s school-based clinics can arrange immunizations and other healthy-child services. But they’re also there to see children with minor illnesses or injuries, and in many cases they can treat a student and then send him or her back to class.
In other cases, they can take care of a sick or injured child while a parent is on the way. On some occasions nurses at other schools will recommend that parents bring their child to one of the Community Health Network clinics. And sometimes another family member—sibling or parent—will need health care services. The clinics are free for the children and affordable for the adults.
The school-based clinics see up to a couple dozen students a day. These are often children who would go without health care if the clinics were not there—or, perhaps, they would wait until their ailment worsens and then wind up in the emergency room. The clinics help families connect with other social and mental health services, as well. For example, parents without insurance are offered help in enrolling their kids in the state’s program that insures children.
Community believes strongly in the social determinants of health, that safety and economic opportunity are necessary ingredients for a healthy community. Similarly, good health is an essential part of academic achievement, say the school officials whose students benefit from Community’s school-based clinics. For example, though clinic host Hawthorne Elementary has the highest rate of poverty in the Warren Township district, its students do well academically—in fact, the third-graders recently had the township’s best ISTEP scores. When children’s health needs are met, they’re more likely to be at their desks, staying focused and learning.
Creating opportunities for individuals and communities
Economic opportunity is a key to a healthy life. Community supports a wide range of programs designed to create opportunities and foster a healthy economy in the areas served by the organization. Some focus on individuals, some on lifting the community as a whole.
For example, through its BodyZone employee fitness center, Community Health Network offers local high school students the opportunity to learn about a health care field and become a certified personal trainer. Students who have turned 18 are eligible for ACE licensure, allowing them to work as certified personal trainers. The Personal Trainer Institute is geared toward college-bound high school students who would be the first in their families to attend college. Earning ACE certification improves their employability and helps them earn money as a personal trainer to support their studies.
Community also is a primary sponsor and training location for Project Search/ Indiana, a nine-month high school transition program targeted for students whose main goal is competitive employment. It is a worksite-based, school-to-work program for students with developmental and/or physical disabilities in their last year of public school eligibility. Participants gain experience at various places around Community—already, Community Health Network has hired some of the program’s graduates.
On a broader scale, Community is involved in local economic development efforts, particularly in the economically challenged area surrounding Community Hospital East. For example, Community has backed efforts to improve nearby commercial areas with grant-supported streetscape and pedestrian improvements. Another initiative helped launch the Near Eastside Orbiter shuttle, providing a new and affordable transportation option linking homes, workplaces, retail businesses, schools, Community Hospital East and places of recreation.
A different type of partnership with state agencies and a local community center is designed to help area residents set up Individual Development Accounts and build financial literacy skills. The program is intended to help low-income Hoosiers save money and build assets.
Reaching out to help neighbors
Community Health Network was born more than 50 years ago, through the tireless efforts of local residents who believed the east side of Indianapolis needed a hospital of its own. Ever since, Community has been strongly connected to its neighborhoods—as proclaimed in its mission: “Deeply committed to the communities we serve, we enhance health and well-being.” That commitment includes many forms of outreach, some related to health, some linked to other components of well-being, including housing needs.
The parish nursing program connects with residents in their houses of worship. Sometimes known as faith community nursing, it is not a hands-on practice but addresses health issues of its members and the community in a faith setting, promoting the integration of faith and health through positive lifestyles and activities within the religious community. Most parish nurses are volunteers. Community hosts the Indiana Center for Parish Nursing, which serves more than 600 commissioned parish nurses and faith community nurses throughout Indiana. Among other things, Community supports educational initiatives for parish nurses.
Many faith communities are involved in housing initiatives, and so is Community. The network’s eastside redevelopment initiative includes a variety of programs, seeking to preserve the housing stock in the neighborhoods and help facilitate home ownership opportunities for working families. Efforts include home rehabilitation projects as well as Habitat for Humanity builds— among them, two recent home projects on property near Community East provided by the Community Health Network Foundation.
Growing new programs for healthy lifestyles
A healthy community includes grocery stores selling fresh fruits and vegetables; clean, safe parks and other places to walk and exercise; affordable housing; reliable public transportation; and businesses that pay employees a living wage. Community has spearheaded the local movement to designate neighborhood Wellness Opportunity Zones, where incentives would be provided for innovative public and private policies, programs and practices improving health and well-being.
Community is promoting nutrition in its neighborhoods in multiple ways. One is the Community Heights neighborhood garden, created in 2009 by a partnership including Community and its Wellspring Pharmacy. Local residents grow their own produce on dozens of plots, and Community has added a medicinal herb garden as a demonstration project. Community also brings healthy food options closer to home through its sponsorship of farmer’s markets, both in neighborhoods and within the hospitals themselves.
Also receiving support from Community is the Indy Food Co-op and a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program run by a group of eastside churches. The Indy Food Co-op is opening a store that will provide owner/members and the general public access to locally grown meat and produce, organic foods and bulk buying discounts. The CSA provides members with fresh produce through the growing year and uses small field practices to grow produce on vacant lots in the urban areas.
Enriching quality of life for the community
As Community’s experience has shown, building a healthy community means much more than serving the most obvious health care needs. It also involves fostering a high quality of life, with vibrant parks and cultural institutions, healthy recreational options, and safe streets and homes.
The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra pays an annual visit to Ellenberger Park on the east side of Indianapolis for a free summer concert, but the shows would not go on if not for the efforts of Community. The network has for a number of years sponsored what is the symphony’s only remaining free outdoor show in Indianapolis, drawing thousands of neighbors to the park for an evening of culture and community building.
To help residents stay active and connected with one another, Community has partnered with numerous neighborhood organizations, sponsoring activities, facilitating communication efforts—even supporting the construction of paths to help residents walk or bike to nearby commercial districts. Such efforts enhance safety, build relationships and boost health.
Safety in the home is another important component in quality of life. Among other initiatives, Community has supported the Domestic Violence Network in its efforts to combat abuse, including the organization’s Power of Images project designed to raise awareness about domestic violence.