Helping Hoosiers access the resources they need to improve their health is the focus of a new statewide partnership between Indiana University, the Indiana Department of Health, Purdue University and dozens of other organizations across the state. The Indiana Health Opportunities for People Everywhere initiative, or I-HOPE, will deploy teams across Indiana to facilitate community-level conversations and develop strategies to help people live their healthiest lives. The two-year program will examine longstanding risk factors, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Hoosiers’ health, and a variety of other topics, including chronic disease, food insecurity, opioids, obesity and smoking. At IU, the School of Public Health-Bloomington, the Center for Rural Engagement and the Sustainable Food Systems Science program will collaborate on initiatives to address health disparities and the detrimental effects of the pandemic. Their goals include community health improvement planning and implementation, developing a program to reduce smoking among mothers and their partners, launching a nutrition prescription program and nutrition interventions, and a collaborative, community-directed project to reduce racial disparities in health in Dubois County. Over the course of the initiative, I-HOPE will expand into 30 Indiana counties.
In other news, the second holiday season of the COVID-19 pandemic is now fully upon us. As we gather with family and embark on holiday activities, IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI epidemiologist Shandy Dearth says there are a few things everyone should remember in order to protect themselves and their family. Dearth says the most important activity a person can do is get vaccinated, both for COVID-19 and influenza. It’s also a good idea to check getting a booster shot off your holiday list, she says. And if your holiday plans include being indoors with large crowds, perhaps while shopping for last-minute gifts at the mall or enjoying a holiday play, Dearth says to always remember your mask. Vaccination and mask-wearing, she says, are among the best gifts you can provide your family during the holiday season. Along with physical safety, this time of year can also be extremely stressful, from supply-chain issues impacting shopping lists to ongoing pandemic anxiety. Dearth says it is important to also take care of our mental health around the holidays and recommends people try to embrace the gift of time. These past two years have elevated the value of family and friendships, she says, and it is important to focus on the friends and family members who bring us happiness – during this holiday season and well into the new year.