Planning a brighter future for all

Planning a brighter future for all

By Kerry Thomson, executive director, Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement

Through the fall and winter, the IU Center for Rural Engagement has continued to strengthen its connections with communities, faculty, and organizations. The essence of this engagement has informed the center’s three-year strategic plan, which addresses three key focus areas important to rural communities across the state: health and wellness, quality of place, and resilience.

Indiana University is uniquely poised to catalyze opportunities. It is the very nature of what a university does—to research best practices, see possibilities which are not readily apparent, invent new ways to address obstacles, and design a new reality. Due to the nature and orientation of Indiana University, it is positioned to channel a diverse set of expertise to the opportunities in rural Indiana. Business, medicine, social work, public health, media, nursing, public affairs, and arts administration experts all reside within the university. Harnessing and directing the resources and expertise can create a stronger Indiana and open possibilities for communities which otherwise may never be created.

The Center for Rural Engagement is intent on bridging the divides of resource and infrastructure development to elevate existing community assets and develop additional pride points. The center’s work is grounded in community-initiated change and facilitated by engaged teaching and translational and longitudinal research. IU seeks to be a true partner in revitalization, ensuring rural communities can reach their own visions of success. In a unique model of engagement, the center works at both the grassroots and organizational levels to develop best practices which are generalizable, and programs which are individualized to the unique communities where they exist. Leveraging the resources of a research-one and community-engaged university, the center brings a truly unique set of tools to bear on the challenges of rural America.

The center’s three-year strategic plan includes goals in each focus area that match the greatest opportunities and needs of Indiana’s rural communities. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with residents, leaders, and organizational partners across the state and the nation as we address these goals.

Health

GOAL 1

  • Address major chronic and lifestyle conditions, specifically type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
  • Reduce new cases of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and obesity among adults ages 18 and older
  • Promote health and reduce chronic disease risk through healthful diets and physical activity

GOAL 2

  • Improve the health and well-being of women, children, and families.
  • Reduce pregnancies among adolescent females ages 15 to 17 years old
  • Increase abstinence from alcohol, cigarettes, and illicit drugs among women during and after pregnancy
  • Increase the proportion of women who receive early and adequate prenatal and postnatal care

GOAL 3

  • Reduce the cumulative impact of substance abuse in Lawrence, Orange, Daviess, and Martin counties.

Quality of Place

GOAL 1
Develop a replicable, collaborative rural regional housing planning process and model, launching the first plan by 2020 that will create 3,500 new housing units for varied income levels for the counties of Monroe, Owen, Greene, Orange, and Lawrence. Replicate the planning process with two other regional areas by 2023.

GOAL 2
Drawing on IU Bloomington’s considerable strengths in the arts and humanities, design and test a scalable, replicable and sustainable process to build community capacity for social and cultural capital in at least three rural Indiana communities in order to build sense of place and enhance the ability of rural communities to grow and thrive.

GOAL 3
Working with three communities, create a comprehensive community development plan which includes activities and public places for interaction, downtown revitalization, diversified housing plans, broadband, and access to health care.

Resilient Communities

GOAL 1
Create and begin to implement a local food value chain advancement plan for regional food producers to affect an increase in food grown within the Indiana Uplands and a 5 percent increase in consumption of locally grown food by Indiana Uplands residents by 2021.

GOAL 2
By 2021, conduct three regional analyses to inform the communities of the Indiana Uplands on the environmental, economic, health, and social impacts of the distinctive karst geography on the region’s water quality and supply.

GOAL 3
Lead an education, promotion, and development campaign for parks, trails and recreation to attract 10 percent more visits to parks and recreation facilities in the Indiana Uplands by 2021.