Brian Howey column: Dire Hoosier health and billions of surplus dollars | Columns

If you live in Carmel or Noblesville, statistically you will live about nine years longer than someone in Scottsburg, and about six years longer than a Hoosier who lives in the Gas City.

In the era of Hoosier political television, there have been seismic reports that have brought middling change. The Indiana School Reorganization Act of 1959 reduced the number of school districts from 966 to 402, but today there are 53 school corporations with fewer than 1,000 students.

In 2007, the Indiana Kernan-Shepard Commission on Local Government Reform, organized by Gov. Mitch Daniels. The commission recommended 27 changes, ranging from child welfare funding to school district reorganization.

It created one major shift: Property tax assessment duties were moved from all but 13 of the 1,005 cities to county offices.

On August 1, the Governor’s Public Health Commission released a 107-page report following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is testing the public health system in a way not seen since the influenza pandemic of 1918,” the commission noted in a letter to Governor Eric Holcomb, who created the body.

“It became clear as we got deeper into this work that funding, governance structures, and workforces are going to be at the heart of many of the public health system’s challenges.”

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In its executive summary, the commission noted: “In fact, most of the gains in life expectancy achieved during the 20th Century – about 25 of the 30 additional years – were due to public health programs and interventions that focused on preventing people from getting sick or injured. First place and promoting health by encouraging healthy behaviors.

The commission noted that the results of longevity in the past century, however, are threatened by contemporary public health challenges involving addiction, obesity, smoking, obesity and vaccine-preventable diseases, although many Hoosiers ignore them.

“In fact,” the commission stated, “life expectancy in Indiana has declined since 2010, when it peaked at 77.5 years. Indiana’s life expectancy in 2019 was 77 years, nearly two years below the U.S. average of 78.8, placing us 40th in the country.

“Of greater concern is the gap between the Indiana county with the highest life expectancy and the county with the lowest life expectancy by nearly nine years. This is clear evidence of the health disparities that exist in our state.

According to senior demographer Matt Kinghorn of the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University, “In 1984, life expectancy at birth for Hamilton County residents was 1.1 years longer than for Scott County residents. By 2018, the gap between the two had grown to nearly nine years .

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Indiana’s emergency medical services have nearly doubled as the baby boom generation, from 758,115 in 2018 to 1,258,158 in 2021. However, that number has decreased:

Emergency ambulances, from more than 2,022 in 2018 to 1,789 in 2021.

EMS providers, from 24,145 in 2018 to 23,070 in 2021.

However, the number of ambulances and EMS providers has decreased from 24,145 in 2018 to 23,070 in 2021.

A third of Indiana counties are more than 45 minutes from the nearest trauma center. Some 33 counties do not have OB-GYN delivery rooms.

“Indiana ranks very well in economy, opportunity, education and public safety,” said Commission Co-Chairman Luke Kenley, who said he was shocked by the growing disparities.

“However, our public health metrics rank among the lowest in the nation. Businesses and industries need a healthy workforce to keep Indiana’s economy growing.

In its conclusion, the commission recommended $240 million in annual spending increases to “raise funding for county public health departments to the national average.”

Indiana ranks 48th in the nation for public health funding, spending approximately $55 per Hoosier on public health initiatives or $36 less than the national average of $91 per capita. In the early 1990s, Indiana ranked 26th in overall health outcomes; now we are ranked 40th.

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In the upcoming 2023 biennial budget session starting in January, the proposal will receive a vigorous debate in the General Assembly.

“I think it’s hard to swallow,” Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said. “I don’t see us spending $480 million in the next budget on public health. I’m not even sure we’re sending that kind of money to local health departments to handle it well.

But here’s some heartening information: Indiana finished its last fiscal year with a record $6.1 billion surplus. Not taking public health, as Governor Holcomb said, “the next level” is avoiding the central dilemma facing tens of thousands of Hoosier families.

Or as Grant County Commissioner Mark Bardsley said, “Regarding public health, I’m not satisfied with adequate or average; we need a basic commitment that all Hoosiers have good public health services in every zip code in Indiana.

Grant County’s life expectancy is 75.3 years, six years lower than Hamilton County’s.

My comments to Sen. Bray and House Speaker Todd Huston are: Hoosiers need you to be creative and innovative. They need you to manage state assets beyond building smooth roads, balancing the budget, keeping tax rates low for businesses and sending rebates back to taxpayers.

Failure of imagination is not an option.


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