A new report finds Northwest Indiana "a region in transition" and declares that urgent, thoughtful action is needed to prevent decline and instead propel the area's residents, communities and institutions toward greatness.
The 2012 Quality of Life Indicators Report, issued today by One Region at a morning meeting at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza, shows the quality of life in Northwest Indiana has remained mostly unchanged since the turn of the millennium.
"It still is divided in many ways by class and race, and those divisions are reflected in disparities in education, safety, income and access to health care," according to the report.
At the same time, the report finds reasons for optimism in the region's growing diversity, improvements to the natural environment and more entertainment, recreational and cultural opportunities than ever before.
But, as the report notes, "there has been little systemic change, and the region has made little progress on tackling its major challenges since 2000."
This is the fourth major examination of quality of life issues in Northwest Indiana. The Northwest Indiana Quality of Life Council previously issued reports in 2000, 2004 and 2008.
Earlier this year, that organization merged with The Times' One Region, One Vision initiative, and now operates as One Region.
The latest quality of life report complies data on where the region stands in 10 categories -- people, economy, environment, transportation, eduction, health, public safety, housing, culture and government. News stories on the findings in each category are on pages A4 and A5.
The goal, according to One Region, is to objectively assess how Northwest Indiana got where it is, identify the trends -- good and bad -- within each category and stimulate dialogue on how to maintain or improve the good and turn around the bad.
For example, the report finds Northwest Indiana residents are less healthy than other Hoosiers in nearly every category, and even less healthy than they themselves were in 2000.
Region residents today eat more, drink more and die younger than in the past, but they also smoke less and have better access to new medical centers, according to the report. It calls for aligning regional health services to better assess community health needs and develop plans to improve public health in Northwest Indiana.
The report also notes in several sections the importance of the region's proximity to Lake Michigan both as an engine of economic development and as a catalyst for greater recreation and tourism opportunites.
The report includes helpful graphs and charts as well as myriad resources for anyone in the community interested in learning more or contributing efforts to improve the quality of life in any of the 10 categories.
While the report makes specific recommendations for improvement in each category, those recommendations are meant to do more than just measure change and hold institutions accountable for what they do or fail to do.
They're also intended to start a regionwide discussion on how Northwest Indiana can make changes to improve its quality of life, said Dennis Rittenmeyer, executive director of One Region.
"In the coming weeks, we will conduct a number of community conversations regarding the data presented in this 2012 report," Rittenmeyer said. "I urge you to participate in one or more of these conversations, which will be held throughout Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties."