Healthy Kids Initiative launches in Lawrence/Far Eastside

Collective effort required to overcome complex obstacles to healthy living

Partners coming together to plan the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge project

Q:  What brings together a Republican mayor, a Democrat township trustee, business and hospital executives, school administrators, directors of several youth organizations, early childhood care providers, community development advocates, and public health officials?

A:  A shared commitment to improving the health and well-being of the children and families in their community.

In February, Jump IN convened a meeting with Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier, Lawrence Township Trustee Steve Talley, and representatives of the leading civic, business and nonprofit organizations in Lawrence and the far eastside of Indianapolis to launch a collective initiative to address child obesity in that community.

The children in this area face some of the highest risk for childhood obesity in the Indianapolis region, based upon socioeconomic and demographic factors. Analysis of health insurance claims data also indicates a high estimated prevalence of childhood obesity in this region.

For this reason, and based on strong community partnerships already in place between Lawrence Township Schools, Community Health Network, the YMCA, major employers, and the Community Alliance for the Far Eastside (CAFE), among others, this area was chosen to be Jump IN’s first Community Demonstration Project in central Indiana. 

Modeled on the organizational framework of “collective impact,” the Lawrence/Far Eastside initiative incorporates a comprehensive, multi-sector approach as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  In addition to incorporating healthy habits in individual settings such as schools, childcare centers, and businesses, the project will focus on systemic issues such as ensuring access to healthy foods and safe places for kids and families to play and be active.

“The key to improving the overall health of the community is to have these key players and others in the community united, working toward a common goal. They need shared action plans and a sense of shared accountability,” explained Jump IN CEO Ron Gifford.  “This group has committed to a powerful alignment of their efforts. They’re going  to tackle this complex issue and improve the health of the children in this community.”

Breaking the cycle of child obesity in central Indiana has substantial benefits, including better health outcomes, increased academic achievement, better school attendance, fewer disciplinary problems, increased productivity, community economic benefits, and improved quality of life.

The leadership group plans to meet regularly to establish the framework of the effort, including the creation of several working groups that will ensure broad community engagement.  In addition to Mayor Collier and Trustee Talley, the initial members of the leadership group include representatives from Community Health Network, CAFE, Lawrence Township Schools, Fort Benjamin Harrison YMCA, Finish Line Boys & Girls Club, Roche, La Plaza, Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, and the Glick Family Foundation.

Jump IN, Purdue Extension, the Indiana State Department of Health, and the Marion County Public Health Department are providing implementation support for the group.  

Download a complete list of steering committee members