By Amy Conrad Warner, Vice Chancellor for the IUPUI Office of Community Engagement
Health, or the lack thereof, has wide-ranging impacts on a community, from quality of life to the local economy and the workforce.
As an anchor institution, IUPUI is working with local communities to address issues that impact residents’ health. But in order to do that work well, students, faculty, staff and researchers have to know what issues a community faces.
Three years ago, IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI researcher Tess Weathers uncovered a disturbing trend in Indianapolis neighborhoods: where you live strongly predicts how long you will live.
For those who live in areas with higher incomes, such as the Carmel area along the Monon Trail, the news was good and their life expectancy was longer at just under 84 years.
But go south along that same trail to the neighborhoods closer to downtown, and life expectancy quickly drops to about 69 years.
The ‘Worlds apart: gaps in life expectancy in the Indianapolis metro area’ study is still routinely cited now, including prompting a partnership between IUPUI and Eli Lilly to try to reduce the prevalence of diabetes – which is a significant health condition in Indianapolis. The goals of the Diabetes Impact Project are to increase screenings for residents at high risk for diabetes, improve access to continued care and foster an environment that supports controlling and preventing diabetes.
The data sends a strong message of inequity in our own neighborhoods. And one of the key issues that leads to that inequity is a lack of local resources.
That is also a significant issue that IUPUI is working to address.
The Near East Side Community includes 17,170 residents in 19 neighborhoods with a poverty rate of over 47% and unemployment near 25%. To improve access to care, a Student Outreach Clinic was established at Neighborhood Fellowship Church to serve those in need.
Today, IUPUI student volunteers studying medicine, dentistry, law, nursing, rehabilitation, physical therapy, social work, and members of the Timmy Global Health chapter operate and manage the free clinic.
The clinic provides free medical, dental, social and legal services for residents in the area each week, with the goal of addressing the health care gap in the community and conditions such as infections, high blood pressure and depression.
In 2017, the clinic had 863 patient encounters, volunteers served more than 13,000 hours, 3,300 prescriptions were dispensed and students raised more than $17,000.
In addition, a team of two professors, one from the IU School of Nursing at IUPUI and one from the IU School of Social Work at IUPUI, and two community partners recently were selected to be Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar Fellows, winning a $420,000, three-year grant. They will continue work with two charter schools in the Near West and begin work with Washington Township Schools to create trauma responsive environments that the schools and community say are desperately needed.
Through these efforts, IUPUI is working to address the health of our community with the goal of having a significant, lasting impact.