New initiatives launched in 2020 to strengthen rural Indiana
New initiatives launched in 2020 to strengthen rural Indiana
Thursday, July 02, 2020
As the Center for Rural Engagement deepens its connection to Indiana’s rural communities’ needs and builds strong partnerships, its reach is growing to include more communities and counties across the state and connecting national organizations to its mission.
These new initiatives bring together faculty, students, and staff, and rural communities through applied research and direct collaboration. Expanding upon current programs and commencing new efforts in quality of place, community resilience, and health, these projects place rural communities at the forefront of innovation and capacity development.
Quality of place
Home ownership is culturally ingrained in the national dream of a “good life,” defined by financial security, social prestige, and residential stability (Cullen, 2004). Indiana’s rural residents who dream of home ownership face significant challenges in finding and securing suitable housing within median incomes. This project looks to build a housing prototype to provide a replicable, energy efficient, modestly-priced (where carrying costs are at or below 30 percent monthly median income) housing for an aging in place (specifically Veteran) population in Jackson County.
This initiative leverages established relationships from previous efforts in Huntingburg and Salem, Indiana (Dubois and Washington counties) in conjunction with IU’s Serve Design which proposes to build and conduct brainstorming sessions to identify small to medium scale placemaking quality of place projects. Bringing diversity and strength of several partners, the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture, and Design and OFS Brands Furniture will collaborate to complete these projects together.
This exploratory community-based research strives to document and contextualize homelessness in Greene County. Reliable measurement is integral to defining a public policy problem, and while measurement of people experiencing homelessness is challenging, it is even more difficult in rural areas. This research will provide Greene County with needed data and policy recommendations to address the challenge of rural homelessness.
In partnership with IU Health Bloomington Hospital and the Herron School of Art and Design (IUPUI), the Eskenazi Museum of Art will lead an art therapy program at the IU Health Bloomington Hospital that will provide wellness for patients in psychiatric care, while also mentoring an IU art therapy intern. In addition to providing an outstanding program for the participants, this project will establish a strong partnership with IU Health Bloomington Hospital (Monroe County) over the next year, with a goal of positioning the museum to begin a museum prescriptions program as early as summer 2021.
This is an expansion of the current iSTEAM project in Brown, Dubois, and Washington counties and looks to build capacity for rural Indiana schools in Lawrence, Morgan, and Daviess counties by training and providing follow-up support to teachers to implement research-based STEAM lessons and activities that align with state standards. This project also helps rural Indiana schools meet the Indiana Department of Education’s goals for STEM education include having 100 percent of Indiana K-12 teachers trained in problem, project, and/or inquiry-based approaches to learning and integrating evidence-based STEM curriculum by 2025.
This project is designed to support Indiana educators in engaging youth in technology-rich maker education. The Uplands Maker Mobile is a cargo van and a trailer that can be delivered to public schools across the Uplands region to allow schools (K-12) to engage their youth in limited making activities. This vehicle will be outfitted with a variety of high-tech and low-tech equipment and materials to provide an extensive range of capabilities and will be staffed by IU School of Education staff and students. The goal of this project is to create and pilot test a van that will provide maker education programming and project design for community schools, and provide digital manufacturing tools and support to artisans and entrepreneurs located in co-working spaces across the Uplands region. This initiative is possible through a partnership with Regional Opportunity Initiatives. Counties involved are Brown, Crawford, Dubois, Daviess, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen, and Washington.
Through a collaboration between Indiana University and Greene County, this project addresses the long-standing community-identified need for a county-wide signage and wayfinding system by designing, manufacturing, and implementing 25-30 signs: guide (highway exit signs and street signs); community wayfinding (such as downtown, shops and dining, Goose Pond, and Tulip Trestle); street name; and recreation (including logos for activities such as hiking, scenic overlook, and trails). This system will drive tourism, encourage residents to take advantage of local recreational and cultural resources, and showcase regional assets.
Diversified local agricultural systems and data-driven water-resource planning require an improved understanding of climate, soil, and water conditions. Monitoring data and techniques are also directly applicable to STEM curricula and can enhance K-12 education in the region. This project unites local officials, farmers, and other stakeholders to initiate three environmental monitoring sites (Daviess, Dubois, and Greene counties) to provide added community benefits in three Indiana Uplands counties. Data will be internet accessible to enhance agricultural productivity, improve local forecasts, support business, and provide teaching tools for K-12 education. This project will engage community members and educators and provide continued support via an immersive teachers’ workshop.
Through working with communities and collaborating with schools, this project will measure the prevalence of food insecurity among teens in Monroe, Madison, and Bartholomew counties. This study is uniquely situated to understand what food insecurity is like for teens and their families. With surveys, observations and focus group interviews, this project will compare food insecurity experiences across surrounding rural communities and seek to improve food situations for teens by working with them, their communities, and their schools to design or improve programs to meet teens’ needs.
This project expands on the already funded project of analyzing 100 springs across the 11-county Uplands region by analyzing arsenic in those springs as well as other groundwater samples from wells in rural areas during the course of the project. The analysis will look at arsenic speciation (the chemical forms of arsenic in water) in these water samples as well as related water quality parameters pertinent to arsenic levels. The results of these analyses will inform the communities of the quality of water in their regions, the possible technological treatments for elevated arsenic concentrations, and the potential future deterioration of water quality due to climate change. Accurate analysis of a trace amount of arsenic in water samples requires a research-grade analytical facility. Our facility will provide a critical resource for addressing this ongoing public health issue and study the mechanisms and, therefore, possible mitigation of arsenic contamination.
This project’s faculty-student team will help local officials in Southwest Central Indiana complete the IU Environmental Resilience Institute’s (ERI) Hoosier Resilience Index Readiness Assessment. The assessment helps local governments evaluate their preparedness for climate risks and identify and prioritize ways to increase readiness. Collecting and disseminating this data will inform communities about emerging threats and identify priorities for coordinated regional or state-level policy solutions. It will also deepen ties between IU and local communities, and serve as a concrete example of a policy-relevant partnership consistent with the CRE’s and ERI’s core mission. In addition to these near-term benefits, the project is designed as a proof-of-concept for a larger regional or national data collection effort. Counties involved are Brown, Crawford, Dubois, Daviess, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen, and Washington.
This project will implement a six-episode limited podcast series that provides a platform for the everyday people by taking on the pandemic at an intimate level. Speaking directly with farmers and food systems organizers in one-on-one conversations about how work and life have changed for them, this podcast will explore how they are adapting quickly to respond to the needs of the community. These episodes will discuss the person’s work but also their life: how things have changed for them during this unusual time, and how they are adapting through it all. These will be made available to media outlets for free through the Indiana Environmental Reporter, providing them with content at an economically very challenging time for small publishers. Success will be measured through media impacts and engagement and discussion with local audiences and publishers, and by tracking impact on social media and elsewhere. Episodes will run 20-30 minutes with short voiceover to include introductions, transitions, and closers following the interviews. In conjunction with the Indiana Uplands Food Network and SFSS there will be a segment on the back end of the podcast such as “Fresh Food Near You” that describes how to get access to markets in various towns.
Faculty Elaine Monaghan (Professor of Practice) and Violet Baron (M.A. candidate) The Media School
In conjunction with Lost River Market and Deli in Paoli (Orange County) will work with local partners to address public health issues using locally grown fruits and vegetables. Lost River will coordinate with community partners to bring a Food Education Program (Cooking Matters) and a Produce Prescription Program to consumers across the socioeconomic spectrum in the community. The Orange County Health Coalition will co-lead efforts to implement Cooking Matters with community partners to increase knowledge and use of healthy foods in home cooking for consumers. Coordinating with the Southern Indiana Community Health Clinic physicians, Cooking Matters will support a Produce Prescription Program to provide healthy cooking lessons and food to patients who are prescribed a healthier diet by their physicians. Engaging families that are in Head Start, Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program and schools, Lost River will host Cooking Matters classes for families seeking food education in the kitchen. To address increased demand and the addition of wholesale purchasing partners, like school corporations, Lost River will work with grower suppliers to ensure best practices for food safety on the farm and coordinate planning, planting, and harvest among growers in the supply chain.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT), a combined use of approved medications, counseling, and behavioral therapies, is being adopted by states with high rates of opioid use in rural communities. Guided by the input from community key informants, the team will conduct semi-structured interviews with 50 medical, public health, social service, and mental health care providers practicing in Orange, Lawrence, Washington, Jennings, Scott, Harrison, and Gibson counties. The team will present findings to System of Care coalitions, thus leading to the development of county specific policies, system change, and environmental strategies of MAT to mitigate opioid addiction.
This project will emplace five master of social work interns in Martin County Community Corrections and the Memorial Hospital and Healthcare Center. This effort will address the lack of mental health providers in Martin County by providing mental health and addictions treatment services (with a service focus on four areas: substance use, childhood trauma, suicidal ideation, and depression/anxiety) and to build community relationships for sustained growth in such services.
This is a single-blind, cluster randomized controlled feasibility trial of a theory-driven, family-based, rurally-tailored, telehealth intervention aimed at sustainable behavioral changes that reduce overweight and obesity among 5- to 11-year-old children in Orange County. Goal outcomes for children include body mass index reduction, nutrition education, and increases in physical activity, sleep, and social functioning. Parent outcomes will be assessed by theory of planned behavior.
The goal of this student-service program is to support rural communities (Lawrence, Orange, Owen, and Washington counties) by having students work with understaffed trial court judges. The Rural Justice Initiative furthers efforts of the Indiana Supreme Court, including the critical work done through the Coalition for Court Access. The program is part of the IU Maurer School of Law’s commitment as one of the largest providers of pro bono legal services to low-income individuals in South Central Indiana. The program is also designed to advance the goals of the Strategic Plan for Economic and Community Prosperity in Southwest Central Indiana by inspiring more young people to remain in the region and by providing critical legal services in counties where that assistance is needed most.
Project UNITE, using a coalition-driven systematic approach to address rural teen pregnancy, began in Lawrence County in June 2019. The current proposal expands Project UNITE to Orange County by engaging the rural community in a process (1) to better understand the local context and factors that contribute to high teen pregnancy and birth rates, and (2) to provide the tools and plans necessary to successfully implement a multi-level intervention. Rural counties are particularly important to target for teen pregnancy prevention as the teen birth rate in rural counties is nearly one-third higher as compared to rates in the rest of the United States. Orange County is among the highest of the Indiana counties in teen pregnancy and teen birth rates with 43.5 births per 1,000 females, ages 15-19 years old as compared to 22.8 in Indiana, and 18.8 in the U.S. (Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Center, 2019).
In partnership with the Indiana Rural Health Association and Indiana Rural Opioid Consortium (InROC), the Center for Rural Engagement is working to reduce stigma toward behavioral health issues in rural communities, because it is often a barrier to individuals seeking and accessing behavioral health treatment when needed. Students in the graduate social work program will facilitate community education regarding stigma reduction, with an emphasis on opioid-use disorders. Students will gather pre-/post-session data from community members who attend the education session, and the faculty mentor will provide students with training and oversight, help to coordinate community session, analyze/interpret data, and provide the CRE with a final report. Counties included are Lawrence, Orange, Washington, Harrison, Scott, Martin, and Jennings.
The Family Battle Buddies Program (FBBP) centers on the concept of Battle Buddies, in which, military personnel are connected with one another to work together as a team and to look out for each other during combat. The FBBP extends this concept to the military family units of each soldier in the civilian environment post deployment. In this, family members are seen as buddies, helping each other in the aftermath of deployment as well as military families assisting other military families during the weekend and, potentially, afterward. The FBBP aims to enhance military family resiliency through family-to-family support during shared recreational therapy experiences in a weekend retreat hosted at Bradford Woods, Indiana University’s Outdoor Center and with a 12-session online follow-up. This initial collaboration will include six families.
Faculty Jordan McIntire, Assistant Director (Therapeutic Outdoor Programs at Bradford Woods)
In partnership with the American Red Cross and 4-H, this project will develop a sustainable program utilizing the IU campus water safety resources to reach out to surrounding communities in order to increase awareness and access to water safety training in elementary aged children in order to reduce statewide deaths by drowning. IU Aquatics assists with classroom training and school programming regarding water safety classroom training in local schools and community centers, offers free lessons to local elementary children, and promotes water safety discussions with an IU Water Safety Poster Contest. Counties involved are Lawrence, Greene, and Monroe.
The purpose of this study is to use a web-based tracking system for 500 residents of Orange and Crawford counties to better understand COVID-19 related symptoms and behaviors. As residents may be experiencing symptoms and adjusting their behaviors, this tracking system can be used to identify the status of adults in two counties during COVID-19 and test the feasibility of an online tracking system. The system also serves as a platform for educating the community about COVID-19 and facilitating communication between health care providers and their patients. This project is created in partnership with Dr. Yoder and the Southern Indiana Community Health Care (SICHC).
Preliminary evidence shows that urban and rural populations hold different attitudes toward the coronavirus pandemic due to differences in population density, lifestyle, and cultural and social norms. For this project, faculty are conducting interviews and focus groups with rural residents about their perception of public health crisis, attitude toward following CDC guidelines, and information access to public health-related national and local news information, and descriptive and injunctive norms about how others in their local communities are coping with the public health crisis. This will inform the design, development, and evaluation of a smartphone app to provide public health information that is most relevant to the information needs of rural residents in partnership with Martin County. The team will conduct a field pilot study to assess the use and preliminary impact of the app. Data generated from this study will be anonymized and shared with local public health officials to better inform their policy and decision-making process. Research insights generated will be published at academic venues and shared broadly.
The number of identified youth across Indiana who are exploited has increased significantly over the last few years. In order to prevent and respond to this exploitation, the proposed Community Engagement to End Child Sexual Exploitation (CEECSE) project will work with communities to build multidisciplinary alliances, assess current resources, develop action plans, and engage intentionally to address their specific community needs. This project addresses two challenges: 1) matching the variety of educational materials or trainings needed by different stakeholders with existing resources as well as 2) identifying needs that will require additional resources or future development (more specialized training for service providers, etc.). This project will work with healthcare providers, law enforcement, local and state officials, educators, and community and faith-based organizations in order to convene local, state, regional, and national resources to build coordinated, well-informed and equipped local teams in these rural communities. Counties involved are Brown, Greene, and Putnam.
In partnership with community organization, Maternal Advocates Resource Alliance (MARA), researchers at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community’s Center will implement a social support model that strengthens access to quality postnatal care in Monroe County, with potential for replication throughout the Uplands region in Brown, Greene, Lawrence, and Owen counties. This community impact project and its evaluation will develop and implement community support to address specific leverage points that have direct bearing on women’s health outcomes and those of their children. This pilot project will use collaborative evaluation research to inform the design and implementation of a community-based, postnatal intervention. Community and faith-based organizations will participate in trainings that equip community volunteers with tools, education, and training to provide non-clinical social support to parents during the postnatal period.