Extension Leads the Charge for Community Health

Story by Angela Abbott and Hannah Harper

Physical health. Mental health. Financial health. Chances are, one or more of these has been on your mind lately. Our health affects all aspects of life — work, play, retirement and relationships. Healthy communities provide the environment we need to support personal health.

Purdue University’s College of Health and Human Sciences has played a significant role in the success of community health through Purdue Extension. Purdue Extension has a network of educators throughout Indiana who focus on food, family, money and health. When it comes to community health, HHS Extension educators lead the effort to address localized health issues through community health coalitions.

A health coalition is a group of stakeholders working toward common health outcomes in a community. Health coalitions have sprung up in nearly 60 Indiana counties, and the HHS Extension educators in each county focus on establishing programs and policies that build healthy communities.

In many counties, especially primarily rural counties, health coalitions may be a significant source for health education and information. These coalitions, however, don’t just provide pamphlets and brochures to those seeking to improve their health. Coalitions are working with local governments and business leaders to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

HHS Extension collaborates with Community Health Partnerships of the Indiana Clinical Translational Sciences Institute to link public health professionals, university researchers and community partners. Additional statewide partners include Indiana Healthy Weight Initiative, Indiana Public Health Association, Indiana Minority Health, Indiana State Department of Health and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. In 2015, HHS Extension connected 176 local agencies and partners to implement effective solutions at the community level.

Wellness programs that have been established through the work of HHS Extension and health coalitions include Safe Routes to School (encouraging children to walk to school), workplace wellness recommendations, nutrition education classes and the creation of community walking trails. Coalitions received over $1.6 million in donations and grants from state agencies, not-for-profits and private corporations in 2015. As they continue to spread awareness of health issues and programs designed to address those issues, Purdue HHS Extension and community health coalitions are creating a healthier Indiana.

More Life 360 Stories