Lilly invests $7 million to improve health in three Indy neighborhoods

Neighborhood health gap
Neighborhood health gap
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — A new pilot program announced Tuesday aims to improve health and quality of life in three Indianapolis neighborhoods where residents have higher rates of diabetes, obesity and a shorter life expectancy than the rest of the city.

The neighborhoods are in the 46202, 46218 and 46222 zip codes and are defined as Near West, Northwest and North East. The three communities were selected based on high prevalence of diabetes, socio-economic factors and highly engaged community members and organizations.

Globally, 425 million people have diabetes with a prevalence rate of 8.4 percent. In the three target neighborhoods in Indianapolis, an estimated 10,000 people live with diabetes, and prevalence rates are as high as 17.5 percent.

Life expectancy in these three communities can be 14 years lower than in neighborhoods just 10 miles away. The lower life expectancy rate is largely due to health disparities and is similar to rates seen in countries such as Iraq and Bangladesh.

Eli Lilly and Company and Indiana University's Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, Eskenazi Health and the Marion County Health Department are partnering in this five year program. Lilly is providing the $7 million dollars in funding. Lilly spokesman says this program is similar to global health efforts it created in India, South Africa and Mexico.

"Despite all our strengths and assets, Indiana ranks 38th among states for overall health status," said Dave A. Ricks, Lilly chairman and CEO. "Through this effort, we are applying what we've learned from our global health work in underserved communities around the world with the expertise of our local partners and the passion of the people living in these neighborhoods. Together we're going to find new solutions for closing these health disparity gaps."

Part of the funding will be used to hire two additional health care workers as Ekenazi's health centers located in the target areas. They are Westside, Forest Manor and Blackburn Health Centers. One worker will be based in the facility, the other will be out in the community, going door to door, finding residents in need of healthcare.

"The whole project reflects a shift in how we think about health," said Dr. Dawn Haut, CEO of Eskenazi Health. "We are willing and able and know that we must give up the way that we have been trying to do this for decades because it's not working."

If successful, the goal is to use this program as a model for healthcare statewide.

People living in the three Indianapolis communities can sign up to receive information about the diabetes pilot by visiting diabetes.iupui.edu.