Franciscan Health has announced that grants from the Indiana State Department of Health (IDOH) totaling over $788,000 will enable them to continue its work to address health issues and challenges faced in the communities it serves.

Franciscan Health is one of more than 150 entities to receive funding for the Health Issues and Challenges program, which focuses on tobacco use, food insecurity/obesity, lead exposure, hepatitis C, chronic disease, public health prevention programs, and substance use disorder and community health workers. Priority was given to applicants that demonstrated high need and high impact in their grant proposals.

“Franciscan Health is privileged to be part of this effort to address Indiana’s public health challenges. The investments being made today in our programs throughout the state will result in healthier communities,” said Caitlin Leahy, senior vice president for Franciscan Health Foundation and Community Health Improvement.

The IDOH awarded all five of Franciscan Health’s submissions. The grants will go toward the following programs centered on advancing health equity:

Cardiovascular Health (Michigan City)

A $150,000 grant will help fund a two-year pilot program serving Black men and women in Michigan City and LaPorte County age 20 or over with a BMI of 30 or greater, a history of high blood pressure, and a diagnosis of pre-diabetes or diabetes. Participants will enroll in a nutrition and education program shaped from the National Diabetes Prevention Program, Cooking Matters, and Million Hearts. They will also gain access to a virtual solution, Livongo, providing them with expert health coaches and health-related devices, such as a scale, pulse oximeter, and glucose meter. The program will begin by fall 2022 and be offered on a rolling basis until July 2024.

Food Insecurity (Lake County)

A $200,647 grant will help expand the nutrition-focused Hammond Food Insecurity Project in Lake County serving vulnerable populations. Franciscan Health will start a School Backpack program at three schools for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years. In Hammond, a new initiative will be launched where participants are “prescribed” nutritional packs of non-perishable food; provided direct education on choosing food items, meal planning and cooking; and connected with SNAP, WIC and other public assistance resources. The program will include two 12-month sessions, August 2022 to July 2023 and August 2023 to July 2024.

Tobacco (Rensselaer)

Using a $143,691 grant, Franciscan Health will lead a new local community-based partnership in Jasper and Newton counties and continue the Health Systems Change activities previously conducted in partnership with the Indiana Rural Health Association and Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation. The project will run from August 2022 through July 2024.

Reducing Infant and Maternal Mortality Rates through Paramedicine (Rensselaer)

A $194,521 grant will enable adaptation of Project Swaddle to the new Rensselaer Prenatal Assistance Program to serve residents of Jasper and Newton counties. The program sends community paramedics to the homes of expectant and new mothers to provide a range of health screenings, educate mothers on how to keep their growing families healthy and answer questions. Participants will receive four to eight visits with community paramedics trained to monitor and respond to perinatal needs before and after a baby is born. Paramedics will also provide virtual visits and be available via phone for questions. The program will run from August 2022 through July 2024.

Diabetes (Marion County)

A $99,933 grant will assist expansion of the diabetes prevention program in Marion County with four additional one-year Prevent Type 2 Diabetes offerings targeting four distinct populations: residents of Beech Grove, African Americans, Sikhs, and Burmese residents. The programs will start on a staggered schedule, beginning October 2022, January 2023, April 2023, and July 2023, with the final program ending in June 2024.

The state awarded more than $35 million statewide in the initial round of funding. The state’s Health Issues and Challenges program was established by the Indiana General Assembly in 2021 with funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.

 “This is only the beginning – these initiatives will scratch the surface on the work we need to do, but it is an important first step on our system’s journey of advancing health equity across the state. I am routinely humbled knowing there are so many people in our corner looking for an opportunity to make a measurable difference in our communities, and the State continues to take notice. Bettering the lives of our friends and neighbors is achievable if we continue to work together. We are looking forward to continuing our mission for the communities we are privileged to serve,” Leahy said.