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Innovative Partnerships Promote Wellness Opportunities for All Ages in East Central Indiana

Schools and health systems in East Central Indiana are helping make residents healthier.

By Patsy B. Weiler on June 16, 2022

Nathan Lambrecht

Tandem teamwork between schools and health systems located in East Central Indiana continue to receive high marks for their innovative efforts to help make citizens healthier.

A dynamic collaboration between Muncie Community Schools and Meridian Health Services is changing the way people receive their care. The partnership has opened the doors for the first Meridian School Clinic at Southside Middle School. A Federally Qualified Health Center, the clinic provides care on a sliding fee scale for primary medical, behavioral and dental needs, from immunizations to health screenings and crisis intervention to suicide prevention and more.

“Our partnership with Muncie Community Schools provides health care services where the person is in the schools, whether that be the students, school staff or community members,” says Lisa Suttle, Meridian’s regional vice president of clinical services.

Open year-round, the clinic consists of five primary care bays and one separate area for behavioral health. The staff keeps the parents informed and involved with the process when their child is seen. Students can enter the clinic through the school nurse’s office, but the public must have an appointment and utilize a separate outside entrance.

“This partnership has grown to be a friendship with the Muncie Community Schools along with all the patients we serve,” Suttle says. “Since the initiation of this program, we have expanded the service to Anderson Community Schools in Madison County.”

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Nathan Lambrecht
Indiana University Health Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie

Nutrition and Exercise

Another community-focused initiative between Muncie Community Schools and Ball State University is a nutrition and exercise program at Grissom and Southview elementary schools for students, teachers, staff and administrators.

“The program provides additional services to the schools that otherwise might be difficult to offer and has a goal of improving child health while at the same time providing healthy living strategies for the adults,” says Anthony Mahon, a Ball State exercise science professor.

This initiative has three primary aims: to increase physical activity during the school day, provide nutrition education and offer the services of the Ball State University Healthy Lifestyle Center to the teachers, staff and administrators in the schools. Funding is provided by a three-year, Indiana University Health Ball Memorial Hospital grant for about $249,000. It currently impacts about 800 children between both locations, plus the adults. The hospital is part of IU Health, the largest health system in Indiana.

Physical activity lessons are provided to classroom teachers on a weekly basis, and activities are designed to be easily done next to the student’s desk. Monthly, grade-appropriate nutrition lessons also are offered.

“The program … has a goal of improving child health while at the same time providing healthy living strategies for the adults.”

Anthony Mahon | Ball State exercise science professor

College and High School Programs

A “win-win scenario,” is how Ryan Williams, Reid Health’s director of EMS, forensics and trauma services, references the relationship between the Center for Global Health’s Community Medicine Program at Earlham College and Reid’s Community Paramedic Program in Richmond.

A group of 10 pre-health students are selected from Earlham to participate in a semester of engaging roundtable discussions with their teachers and a second semester of traveling in pairs with a community paramedic to make home visits. In this sett ing, students learn how to focus on the well-being of each individual patient, from checking on correct medication to assessing fall risks.

Inside Henry Community Health, you are sure to find employees who were a part of New Castle High School’s Health Science Education Program. The hospital and the New Castle School Corp. share a joint relationship, allowing students to have classes, clinical experience and job shadowing opportunities at the facility.

“New Castle Career Center students get real-life clinical experience and a glimpse into the various health care professions,” says Angie Talbott , a registered nurse and health science education instructor. “They get many questions answered while they are still in high school. This helps them to make accurate decisions on what career path to pursue before they enter college.”

Nurse Paige Fraley credits her career choice to the class. She works at Henry Community Health in the Women and Children’s Unit.

“I was able to have my clinicals and visit the different departments to get a taste of what it would be like to work there,” she says. “I loved the ‘family’ atmosphere. I am so glad for the opportunity to be in the vocational program. The experience helped me to become the nurse that I am.”

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