An old proverb, first printed in 1639, says: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” In today’s state and national economies, the assertion is that the healthier the residents are, the wealthier and wiser they and the broader community will also be.
The Ball State University Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) created the Healthy, Wealthy, Wise Index for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, its Foundation and the Wellness Council of Indiana to emphasize the critical importance of the health factor. The Index will serve as a valuable measuring tool for the Wellness Council’s Indiana Healthy Community initiative.
The Wellness Council of Indiana is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Indiana Chamber.
“Health is a key success factor to learning and wealth,” says Wellness Council of Indiana Executive Director Chuck Gillespie. “Community leaders and business decision makers need to understand why ‘healthy’ must be a big priority in order to ensure the vitality of their communities and workplaces.”
Thirty indicators – 15 health, six wealth and nine wise – were selected to establish the three indices. Results among all 92 counties and, separately, the 50 states are divided into quartiles, with those in the fourth quartile having the strongest performance.
“Our research also found there are major policy implications,” states Michael Hicks, the George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Economics in the Miller College of Business and director of CBER. “There is a huge disparity in health and health care costs associated with preventable diseases in Indiana, especially across rural and urban settings. With this information, local governments can partner with businesses and non-profits to figure out how wellness can be more effectively spread throughout our communities.”
The Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 (www.indianachamber.com/2025) economic development action plan for the state includes four drivers, with three health-related goals under the Attractive Business Climate section (along with the direct correlation of the Wise index to the plan’s goals under Outstanding Talent). While the state has fared well in tax, regulatory and other areas in enhancing its business climate, the unhealthy state of the population is a costly and dangerous outlier.
The Indiana Chamber and allies have formed the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana to tackle health care challenges, with an initial legislative focus on reducing smoking. Nearly one-quarter of the adult population in Indiana smokes at an annual cost of $6 billion in additional health care expenditures and lost productivity.
“The Wellness Council has focused on creating and maintaining well workplaces throughout its history,” Gillespie shares. “The Indiana Healthy Community initiative is an important step to embracing and working toward community-wide health improvements. Healthy citizens are essential to Hoosiers being prepared to learn and work at their highest capabilities. Leaders are encouraged to use these findings in assessing the current status of their communities.”
Srikant Devaraj, CBER research assistant professor, adds, “This research found that there is a strong correlation between the built environment – the man-made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity – and the places where people are moving, implying that households put more value on the recreational amenities. Infrastructure related to traditional wellness activities, such as trails, playgrounds, parks and open green space matters more than ever in where people and subsequently businesses relocate.”
Counties that score highly in all three indices include Bartholomew, Dearborn, Dubois, Kosciusko and those surrounding Indianapolis. As suggested by earlier research, rural areas do not fare as well as urban settings. There are examples of high and low performers in close proximity to each other. Nationally, success is varied with Indiana having a below median health index and above median wealthy and wise results.
The Healthy, Wealthy, Wise Index is available at www.wellnessindiana.org, www.readyindiana.org and www.bsu.edu/cber/publications. The Ball State site includes full index scores for each county and state.
To be considered an Indiana Healthy Community, communities must apply to the Wellness Council of Indiana and meet eight key components, including working with various community leaders, getting citizens involved, analyzing political atmospheres and ensuring environments are best for making healthy choices. Part of the requirements include having a certain number of businesses certified as AchieveWELL companies, a Wellness Council designation for individual organizations
Locations interested in becoming Indiana Healthy Communities can visit the Wellness Council web site for more information and to apply.