FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – If the state of Indiana could put a dollar in a car and get seven dollars back, the food drive would seem like a good idea.
According to Mindy Waldron, Administrator of the Allen County Health Department and a member of the Governor’s Public Health Commissionthis is exactly what the legislature should do with public health funding.
“[It] it really equates to economic development,” she told WANE 15. “You get somewhere between $7 and $14 back for every dollar you put into preventive public health services.”
“You have less insurance costs, you have less people out of work,” she continued. “The progressive states that you see doing well with public health funding have programming at the local level geared toward those public health prevention efforts. And that is our hope.”
Waldron spent the past 10 months as part of Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s Public Health Commission. Holcomb charged the group with studying Indiana’s public health system and making recommendations for improvement. The report was released this month in time for the 2023 legislative season.
Among the findings: life expectancy and public health funding lag in the Hoosier State, with Indiana landing 40th and 45th, respectively, among US states.
Indiana spends $55 per person on public health compared to the national average of $91.
Life expectancy in Indiana has been declining since 2010, when it peaked at 77.5 years. Indiana’s life expectancy in 2019 was 77 years, almost two years below the US average of 78.8, placing us 40th in the nation. Of even greater concern is that the difference between the Indiana county with the highest life expectancy and the county with the lowest life expectancy is almost nine years.
Governor’s Public Health Commission
Waldron knew Indiana trailed other states, but found the specifics sobering.
“I was very surprised by some of the statistics to see how low Indiana is on some of our parameters,” she said. “Our ability to not be able to respond or low staffing levels, that sort of thing.”
She hoped lawmakers would see the value of investing in Hoosier health.
“There’s a lot that we have in the way of money and a lot to do over these next few years if we get the chance to do it.”