Ball State is now one of 37 stakeholders in the Healthy Community Alliance of Delaware and Blackford Counties.

The alliance’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of the two counties through community engagement in three areas:

  • increasing physical activity
  • improving nutrition
  • decreasing tobacco use

Health statistics:

  • 25 percent of Delaware Country residents smoke
  • 33 percent are obese
  • 31 percent of residents report not using leisure time for physical activity
  • 12.8 percent have diabetes

The central steering committee will lead groups to help accomplish goals in those three areas.

John Disher, community outreach manager for IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, said the organization will use a collective impact model, where all partners have a common agenda and continuous communication. They do not want to put on events, but instead be a catalyst and align existing initiatives.

“My hopes for the organization is that we are effective over time in helping people make healthier choices, and that’s really what I personally am all about,” Disher said. “I love to encourage people to make healthy lifestyle choices … I am a survivor of a heart attack, and I became acutely aware of how lifestyle affects your heart … I’ve kinda got a passion for it through that as well.”

Julie Halbig, vice president for government relations and community engagement at Ball State, said it was natural for the university to partner with the alliance because of the new College of Health, which will open in Fall 2016.

“Part of being a good neighbor with our fellow community partners is getting involved in things that are naturally creating collaboration,” Halbig said. “With the new College of Health, it was just the perfect time to organize ourselves internally and then figure out how we can best participate in the alliance.”

Halbig plans to meet with Mitch Whaley, dean of the College of Health, to see which faculty members will serve on each group. Immersive learning opportunities may also become available from the initiative.

Elizabeth Peeler, a health educator with the Office of Health, Alcohol and Drug Education, said she is excited about the opportunity because she thinks people forget how physical environment affects their health.

“I really want to make sure that all students are being taken care of, on and off campus,” Peeler said. “The opportunity to meet with different community partners, I think, is a huge advantage to not only the university, but to individual departments that may end up working with this … In public health, we’re very limited resources, and so we come together and figure out our strengths and work together, we’ll get a lot more out of it in the end.”