MUNSTER | A new committee forming under the One Region initiative wants to improve the health of Northwest Indiana.
The health committee will convene for an organizational meeting May 8, with Patrick Bankston, associate dean and director of IU School of Medicine - Northwest and dean of the College of Health and Human Services, and state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, as co-chairs, said Dennis Rittenmeyer, executive director of One Region.
Rather than just talk about health issues, the group wants to set goals and establish ways to reach them.
"Our main goal is to focus on the health of our citizens and pick a project or small number of projects that will make a difference," Bankston said.
Members want to combine the idealism they have for helping people and translate it into real-life efforts, he said.
"The feeling is that we should focus, rather than on the business of health care, that we should focus on health," Bankston said. "That we could make a difference in people's lives."
The group could address local health issues, such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, but it may involve out-of-box thinking as well, examining the role of unemployment, education and single-parent households, all of which correlate with health care behaviors, he said.
Rittenmeyer identified hospital recidivism, hospital acquired illnesses, obesity, infant mortality and health disparity among the top health problems in the region.
A previous council focused more on the business angle of health care.
To engage in the type of discussion wanted for this committee, Rittenmeyer sent invitations to the five area hospital systems, three federally qualified health centers, four university nursing programs, two medical societies and four mental health centers.
Each is welcome to contribute a representative to sit at the table.
The agenda for the first meeting includes the disclosure of conflicts of interest, just to put that information out in the open, Rittenmeyer said.