OCRA announces partnership with Indiana University to help manage COVID-19 in two counties

INDIANAPOLIS (July 28, 2020) –Today, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs announced a collaboration with the IU Center for Rural Engagement and the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington to leverage community networks in Decatur and Daviess counties to effectively manage health crises, like COVID-19.

“As we continue to respond to COVID-19, communications and collaboration are the keys to success,” said Matt Crouch, Interim Executive Director of OCRA. “I’m excited to build our network with Indiana University and further learn from our communities about how they are coping with COVID-19.”

Based on local health assessment data, community health improvement plans (CHIP) help communities set SMART goals to meet a range of health objectives, from addressing gaps in services to preventing and treating chronic conditions. These plans, which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound, maximize existing resources and networks and also include interventions that also address root causes beyond the immediate needs.

“Every rural community is different, and each brings its own strengths and challenges,” said Dr. Priscilla Barnes, associate professor in the IU School of Public Health and lead researcher on the project. “Rural health partnerships and coalitions have been quick to adapt to the daily changing landscape of public health. Response to unexpected crises is the invisible thread that connects with the existing health priorities, and these plans and their implementation will address both emergent needs and long-term priorities.”

In Daviess County, residents developed a CHIP in partnership with IU, and the support from OCRA will help them adapt their plan and deploy a response to immediate and emerging needs related to COVID-19. In Decatur County, this initiative will establish a new CHIP that addresses COVID-19 needs and plans for long-term health initiatives.

The local networks that inform the CHIP development and implementation are composed of diverse organizations, including representations from health, education, business and the nonprofit sectors.

“This collaboration with OCRA and our community partners launches transformative possibilities for the health of our rural communities,” said Kerry Thomson, executive director of the IU Center for Rural Engagement. “By leveraging local and university resources, we can effectively address major health challenges like COVID-19 as well as increase access to care and mental health services that builds our resilience for the future.”

The Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington offers top-ranked academic programs that prepare students for challenging careers preventing disease and promoting wellness in communities everywhere. Unique in the nation, our multidisciplinary programs, history of engagement, and emerging strengths bring new energy to the traditional concept of a school of public health. Our innovative research is grounded in rigor, reproducibility, and transparency. With nearly 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students and more than 150 faculty in five departments, our faculty and students conduct research, learn, teach, and engage across the spectrum of health and quality of life.