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Columbus advances in health challenge

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Columbus and Bartholomew County are one step away from earning a spot in a national community health competition.

Now in the top 10, Columbus has emerged from the round of 41 and the sweet 16 in The Way to Wellville challenge.

The Health Initiative Coordinating Council, also called HICCup, will name five winning communities by Aug. 15 to compete over five years for the greatest improvement in five health measures.

If selected, HICCup will measure how well the city and county influence healthy behaviors, how much is saved in health care costs, what effect it has on the community and whether the effort can be sustained.


Prizes are not yet decided, and HICCup said the challenge will not be a “winner-take-all” contest.

Standing between Columbus and the final five selection is a half-day site visit Aug. 4.

Healthy Communities Director Beth Morris said the organization will use the site visit to demonstrate the city and county are eager and ready to participate in the contest.

Morris said she will explain the city has a long history of successful collaboration, where health care, education, the public sector, private business, social services and funding entities have worked together to tackle challenging issues.

Esther Dyson, the venture capitalist, philanthropist and technology icon who is backing the competition, will travel to Indiana with the HICCup Advisory Board to spend 5½ hours in Columbus.

There will be brief tours of the city and its health facilities, but Morris said most time will be used discussing health goals and visions.

Morris said HICCup will work with the finalists like a startup accelerator supports a promising business idea, providing connections to grant money and health experts. They would support and refine, test and learn, and help the city and county be successful.

Morris said Healthy Communities and partners in the community would set their own course, and they have three focus areas:

Create a Healthy Communities Connection Center, which would include a nurse-family partnership program to improve chronic disease care between school nurses and pediatricians

Accelerate the health impact of Community Education Coalition initiatives and United Way’s Bartholomew County Works program

Work with employers to encourage healthy lifestyle programs

She said poor health status does not signify a lack of access to high-quality clinical care. Rather, it is tobacco use or chronic illness that results in stress or depression and then low motivation to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

“It really is about going after the base of the iceberg, not just reaction to the symptoms at the top of the iceberg,” Morris said.

She hopes to get more organizations involved to better integrate efforts, so representatives from the education coalition and United Way also will be involved in the site visit and the future path on The Way to Wellville.

“We are being really ambitious in our goals, but our community is ready for this,” she said.

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