By PEGGY VLEREBOME

Special to the Courier

Ideas for making Indiana a healthier place to live are expected to be presented early next year to reduce the state’s high rates of tobacco use, infant deaths, obesity, opioid use and other indicators.

The Alliance for a Healthier Indiana was in Madison on Thursday on a tour to educate the public and seek public support for change, and gather information on what is being done and what else can be done to improve. Today in Sellersburg will be the final of its 17-city Town Hall Road Shows.

The Alliance, formed by business, health and social service organizations, will take the next couple of months to distill what it has learned.

About 70 people, most of them in professions and jobs related to the issues the Alliance is addressing, attended the Town Hall at Ivy Tech Community College Madison.

Highlights from the speakers at the Town Hall included:

• Lisa Crane, senior director of Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana’s Nurse-Family Partnership, described how the partnerships between nurses and first-time mothers are intended to foster good health habits from as early in pregnancy as possible and no later than the 28th week, until birth. The nationwide partnership program has been in Indiana since 2011 but in southern Indiana just since last year. Most of the first-time mothers get involved by referral from clinics and other health-care providers, but some contact the program individually or through family members and friends. The goal, she said, is to have a healthy pregnancy and birth, and a healthy child, and to increase the family’s ability for self-care physically and psychologically.

• Michael Schwebler of Highpoint Health (formerly Dearborn County Hospital) said a barrier to personal responsibility is expected to be knocked down soon because the state is expected to allow pharmacists to prescribe tobacco-cessation drugs, rather than have people having to see a doctor for a prescription.

• Kelly Mollaun, the mayor of Lawrenceburg, said his city was one of the first in Indiana to have a Quick Response Team that meets with people who overdose on drugs or their families within 48 hours of an overdose. Mollaun said he got the outreach idea after hearing about the team approach in Colerain Township in Cincinnati. When there is an overdose, Lawrenceburg assembles a team with someone from the police department, a person from EMS or the fire department, a community health addictions counselor and the mayor.

• Kori Jones, Southeast Indiana Outreach Manager and Solutions Manager at the Indiana Youth Institute, showed with dozens of statistics the effects on children of living in unhealthy homes, communities and state. For example, she said the number of children living in households with people who aren’t relatives has risen sharply, more children are food insecure, obesity rates for children are high, graduation rates are falling, and child abuse is up sharply, with an average of two calls per hour to the Indiana Child Abuse Hotline.

• Patric Morrison, the head football coach at Madison Consolidated High School and a Project Lead the Way teacher at the junior high school, told about his family’s encounter with drug abuse and said it is why his mission as a teacher and coach is to “try to build relationships with these kids” to encourage them to follow healthy lifestyles.

• Natalie Garrett, who is in charge of tobacco cessation at King’s Daughters’ Hospital in Madison, said that in addition to a $1.50 increase in the cigarette tax, the Indiana General Assembly should raise the age for smoking and for buying tobacco to 21 and regulate the sale and distribution of cigarettes so they are not so prominently displayed where they are sold. There are campaigns under way to raise the age and the tax.

Indiana ranks 38th of the 50 states in overall health of its citizens based on America’s Health Rankings 2017.