Region’s health facilities must work together to reduce 5 major health risks

By Leigh Morris

There’s so much good about northwest Indiana that I hesitate to focus on something that’s negative. However, it involves the health of all of us and it’s been a problem for far too long.

Leigh Morris

The 2016 rankings by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute document the problem in five key areas; here are rankings for LaPorte, Lake and Porter counties out of Indiana’s 92 counties:

— Health outcomes: LaPorte 73rd, Lake 85th, Porter 10th

— Quality of life: LaPorte 78th, Lake 92nd, Porter 13th

— Health factors: LaPorte 77th, Lake 91st, Porter 17th

— Health behaviors: LaPorte 67th, Lake 92nd, Porter 19th

— Clinical care: LaPorte 27th, Lake 56th, Porter 21st

The Quality of Life Indicators for Northwest Indiana have been reporting on this since 2000, but sadly there’s been relatively little overall improvement. Our regional health systems and many other organizations are doing some very good things that will undoubtedly make a positive difference over time, but there’s been no overall regional coordination or direction. I believe it’s time for a comprehensive look at the causative factors and a deep dive to determine why both Lake and LaPorte counties have a much, much greater problem than neighboring Porter County.  

In the meantime, I suggest we focus attention on five initiatives that can, if pursued diligently, improve our region’s overall health status:

— Smoking. We need to assure that smoking cessation initiatives in our region utilize best demonstrated practices, and are partnering with employers and others to assure optimal access and utilization. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death. It leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body.  

— Prenatal counseling and care. Make sure there are no gaps in the content and availability of comprehensive prenatal counseling and care that can help get newborns off to a healthier start, particularly given the high proportion of teenage mothers in Lake and LaPorte counties.

— Primary medical and dental care. We need more primary-care physicians, dentists and advanced-care practitioners in all three counties so there can be greater emphasis on public health screenings and preventing disease and disability.

— Obesity. Effective weight control and reduction programs can help reduce the incidence of adult obesity in our region, which is about 25% higher than state and national levels. This contributes to a host of other serious health issues.   

— Substance abuse or behavioral health. We need a more holistic approach, enhancing coordination between behavioral healthcare and acute-care providers. Our inpatient treatment centers are designed for crisis intervention and need to be better positioned for early disease identification and ongoing maintenance care.

Our region is served by four healthcare systems — Community Healthcare System, Franciscan Alliance, Methodist Hospitals, and CHS (Porter and LaPorte hospitals). I challenge them to partner with our community health centers and mental health organizations to take ownership of the effort to transform northwest Indiana from one of the least healthy in the state to one of the healthiest. These five initiatives might be the initial step. If they don’t do it, who will? If no one does it, will we continue to have deaths, disabilities and suffering that could have been avoided.  

LEIGH MORRIS is former mayor of LaPorte and former chairman of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. He and his wife Marcia live in LaPorte.

5 Responses to “Region’s health facilities must work together to reduce 5 major health risks”

  1. Smoker

    Feb 27. 2017

    I like how smokers are #1 on this list when we can’t go a week without a heroin overdose on this website. I remember when you could still smoke in restaurants and smoking was just a factor of life. I understand that smoking isn’t the best for you but when did this war on smokers start? More people die every year from drowning than smoking so let’s ban water. Yes, people still smoke, let’s get over it. It’s legal and it’s their decision. Could you imagine how high general taxes would go up without people buying cigarettes? Smokers know smoking is bad so let’s just leave them be.

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  2. Big Al

    Feb 27. 2017

    Mr Morris it won’t be long and LaPorte won’t even have a hospital. What a shame it is to watch that once great facility fall prey to that evil CHS. Ever since they took over our hospital has been doomed to failure and along with all the jobs lost I’m afraid our town will follow the same path. A question that needs an answer is why? Wake up people we’re not in Kansas anymore.

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  3. NDman

    Feb 27. 2017

    Hey Leigh, you are right on with the changes that are severly needed. I wish more people would LISTEN to you!!!!!!

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  4. Codger

    Mar 02. 2017

    Leigh, For what office are you running? Just curious .

    Reply to this comment
  5. Bernie

    Mar 03. 2017

    440,000 people died from smoking in the US. 5 million worldwide. Last year. 3618 US drowning deaths. 40,000 from second hand smoke in the US. 26% of pregnant women in LP County smoke.

    We all pay higher insurance premiums because of this

    Yes, smoking is a problem.

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