MUNCIE, IN – The County Health Rankings were released today and Delaware County slipped a spot to rank 83 out of 92 counties in Indiana. We are not surprised since the Gallup WellBeing Index was released yesterday showing Indiana has made no progress over the past year.
The County Health Rankings measure the health of nearly every county in the nation. Published online at countyhealthrankings.org, the Rankings help counties understand what influences how healthy residents are and how long they will live. The Rankings look at a variety of measures that affect health, such as high school graduation rates, access to healthy foods, rates of smoking, obesity, and teen births.
If we look at specifics, we rank below the state average for quality of life issues. We smoke too much, eat the wrong foods and exercise too little. The number of sexually transmitted diseases are off the charts.
Our access to clinical care ranks high for the state and so does our resources, but our plans for getting people from the couch to the Cardinal Greenway are not working. Despite the large square footage of non-profit fitness facilities in the county, they’ve had no impact.
I contacted Cathy Clark, the CEO from the YMCA, but she refuses to speak to me directly. We have to go through Steve Murphy at Defur Voran, but his email had a vacation response indicating he was unavailable until the end of the month.
We also contacted Steve Tomboni, CEO of America Multisport, whose company has grown from a few triathlons at Prairie Creek to over 40 events across Indiana in 2014, making him the largest multisport event management company in the Midwest. He said, “Move Muncie is the only answer for this troubling issue. Our entire community leadership must come together on this issue and plan a course of action.”
As a former YMCA director, Tomboni would know that poor statistics equates to higher health insurance premiums, unproductive labor, high absentee rates, or higher overall labor costs to employers. As we mentioned in our article yesterday, there is a well-known rule of thumb for a 300% Return On Investment (ROI) for wellness programs, yet employers are reluctant to add these programs.
A group of corporate wellness professionals has met monthly for the past two years to discuss wellness topics and exchange ideas, but the impact to our overall health and wellness has been negligible.
As a cultural wellness coach, one of the issues I believe causes reluctance for many of the employers in Delaware County is surveying existing employees to gather feedback. If you ask most CEO’s in town how well their employees enjoy working for them, many will have lofty notions of what employees will say. They also tend to surround themselves with middle managers who reinforce these lofty ideals. However, if you survey the employees, you’ll get a cold hard dose of reality. Most of their egos would prefer to stay in denial.
If we jump back over to Gallup’s Wellbeing Index which goes into more detail about the work environment, we’ll find declining trends in work environment. According to Gallup, “Work environment hit an all-time monthly low in 2009 and has never fully recovered to pre-recession levels. The questions that comprise this measure are designed to gauge atmosphere and relationships in the workplace and are asked of employed individuals. Working Americans are making it clear that a weak labor market has had an adverse impact on managerial and labor relationships.”
We can’t let community and corporate denial get in the way of making meaningful cultural changes in how our residents perceive issues of wellness.
When our economic development leaders are competing across county and state lines for new businesses, and local incubation of jobs is the focus of local leaders, the poor health and wellness issue becomes one of economic survivability. What company wants to start or move a business to Muncie/Delaware County with the employment base so unfit, so expensive to insure. Hiring and keeping high quality, productive workers is the goal of all businesses. I’ve said it before, these numbers are a wake up call – who is listening?
Does our governor have any plans to improve quality of life for Hoosiers in 2014?
We were referred to Governor Mike Pence’s Road Map for Success in 2014, but we found nothing. The Governor took office in 2013, immediately abandoned the Health Exchange work completed by former Gov. Daniels, and refuses to take part in the Affordable Care Act expansion. In doing so, he’s left around $17 billion in taxpayer dollars in Washington, a lost opportunity to create thousands of new jobs, and over 600,000 uninsured Hoosiers.
Our economic developers tout Indiana as the number 3 place in the country to do business. However, the same state leaders have no plan to make the health and wellness of Hoosier workers a priority. With the cost of healthcare continuing to rise, every employer is looking at the wellness of the community they are relocating to. Poor health adds to the cost of the labor. We may look appealing on the surface, but once employers do their research, our poor health will price us out of the market.
We’ve already heard comments from some large local companies who prefer to remain anonymous, but who have pointed to our high rate of drug use in Delaware County. These are lifestyle choices picked up by the County Health Rankings. Our County Health Department Administrator, Josh Williams, indicates all these factors work together. Lack of opportunities, stress, drug and alcohol usage, etc. all contribute to unhealthy lifestyles. Reversing these trends requires a cultural shift. the only way to accomplish this shift is ALL leaders in the community working together.
When the largest fitness facility operator in Delaware County refuses to work with other wellness professionals, and the locally owned newspaper makes no effort to support both of them in the market because they have their own pet project called Walk Indiana, then we’re not even getting to first base.
We’re hoping the departure of Lisa Nellesen as Editor with the StarPress will bring an adult to the community who can work on bringing the YMCA to the table with ALL other health and wellness leaders and make wellness a priority.
The County Health Rankings also has a recommended strategic plan for communities. According to their report, “The Roadmaps to Health help communities bring people together to look at the many factors that influence health, select strategies that work, and make changes that will have a lasting impact. The Roadmaps focus on helping communities determine what they can do and what they can learn from others.”
It takes a lot more than just talking about the issue for Delaware County to make the move toward a cultural shift making wellness a priority. We can’t wait for leadership at the state level – it must come from inside the county.