Indiana might be known for car racing and Division I basketball, but governor Mitch Daniels is finally making Indiana about health. In 2007, Indiana implemented the Certified Wellness Tax Credit Program, which sought to recognize small employers in their efforts to improve Indiana’s health status by providing wellness programs for their employees. This program entitles the employer to a credit of 50% of the costs incurred for providing a comprehensive wellness program. In the first year, 54 employers were eligible for the credit and in 2008 the number increased to include 88 small companies. As of now, Indiana is the only state to successfully pass a tax credit for work site wellness programs, although the current health reform bill seeks to establish similar laws on a national level.
In the Indiana school system, a record 92 schools recently received the 2008-2009 Healthy Hoosier School Award. This award honors the Indiana schools that promote good nutrition and regular physical activity among students. The Healthy Hoosier School award has the ability to truly evoke change in individuals because it targets young children and encourages healthy habits from early on.
Another statewide health program is INShape Indiana. INShape Indiana provides a framework for personal or company-wide fitness initiatives so that Hoosiers and their employers can benefit from statewide-improved health. Accumulating research shows that healthy people perform better and save money for themselves, their employers, and the state. While none of this information is surprising, Indiana seems to be doing far more than most other states to encourage healthy living and increase general well being among its residents. As many of the programs are still fairly recent (most have existed for fewer than five years), there is not enough long-term data within the state of Indiana to confirm previous research that spending money on preventative health measures saves more money than treating health problems down the line. In the past two years however, research shows that Indiana has shifted from the 9th highest obesity rate in the US to the 16th. This shows a positive trend! Unfortunately, it is possible that instead of Hoosiers significantly improving their health, other states have merely been falling behind, thereby making Indiana look better by comparison.
For Hoosiers who want to take advantage of INShape Indiana, fitness fanatics in Indianapolis can walk, bike and run along the 15-mile Monon trail, credited with being one of the busiest trails in the nation. This "urban greenway" links commercial districts, schools, parks, the state fairgrounds and a dozen residential neighborhoods making it a convenient path for leisure or a morning commute.
Although midwestern states have continually demonstrated high levels of obesity and poor funding to help combat health issues, it seems as if Indiana governor Mitch Daniels is finally making Hoosier health a priority!