Eskenazi Health Foundation Receives More Than $8.5 Million to Support Beyond Barriers Campaign

Eskenazi Health Foundation has received more than $8.5 million from the Regenstrief Foundation and the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation in support of the Beyond Barriers Campaign – an initiative that supports Eskenazi Health’s longstanding commitment to addressing the social drivers that impact the health and well-being of residents in Marion County and across Central Indiana.

“Attending to social care is imperative and fundamental to improving overall health, but health care systems cannot do this alone,” said Ernie Vargo, II, CFRE, president and CEO of Eskenazi Health Foundation. “We are beyond grateful for the transformative gifts from the Regenstrief Foundation and the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation and appreciate their partnership and commitment as we work together towards generational change in our communities.”

The Regenstrief Foundation has awarded more than $5.5 million to evaluate initiatives aimed at decreasing inequities in health, most of which will be focused on social determinants of health in underserved and minority populations. Results of this research will identify interventions that prove effective and can then be implemented more broadly. The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation has awarded $3 million to address substance use disorder in Indianapolis and the social determinants of health that impact the rate of tobacco use and youth nicotine use. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 11,000 adults in Indiana die each year from smoking-related illnesses.

“Eskenazi Health has been instrumental in providing care for residents of Marion County and Central Indiana for more than a century; this grant will benefit even more residents and help them live the most healthful lives possible,” said Craig Brater, M.D., president of Regenstrief Foundation. “Our founder, Sam Regenstrief, was ahead of his time in being deeply disturbed by inequities in health; he charged his Foundation to direct its resources to studying and then implementing system changes that would rectify such inequities. As such we are pleased to provide this funding, and we look forward to continued collaboration.”

“Social determinants of health shape the conditions of an individual’s daily life and influence their health outcomes, including those related to substance use disorder, tobacco and nicotine use,” said Claire Fiddian-Green, president and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. “We are excited to see how Eskenazi Health will expand access to prevention and treatment services and ultimately improve health outcomes by knitting together community and clinical resources to better meet the needs of their patients.”

The Beyond Barriers campaign is centered around three areas of wellness including health care, mental health care and food as medicine. Efforts are focused within three recently established health equity zones – geographic areas in which Eskenazi Health and community partners work together to address social determinants of health including racial equity and economic mobility with the goal of increasing the life expectancy of those living within the area. By 2025, health equity zones will be implemented at three Eskenazi Health Center sites: Eskenazi Health Center West 38th Street – International Marketplace, Eskenazi Health Center East 38th Street – Northeast Corridor and Eskenazi Health Center Grassy Creek – Far Eastside.

“Research has shown life expectancy for residents in certain areas of Indianapolis is significantly less than for those residing in communities north of the city. Sixteen miles to the north, life expectancy improves by 16 years,” said Kimberly McElroy-Jones, Ph.D., DMin, director of community partnerships for community health at Eskenazi Health. “The support from the Regenstrief Foundation and the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation will catalyze innovation and allow us to partner with our community and other organizations to diligently work toward reducing this disparity.”

Community health workers and community weavers serve as valuable resources within these health equity zones. Community health workers meet individually with Eskenazi Health patients at a health center or within the patients’ homes. Together, they identify potential social determinants of health the patients may face and address them by creating a plan and setting individual goals. Community weavers visit neighbors within the community and help connect them with available resources from local organizations or government entities.

“Traditional health care is only one component of a person’s complete health,” said Dawn Haut, M.D., CEO of Eskenazi Health Center. “Being able to partner with our patients to address the barriers that prohibit them from living healthful lives is a holistic approach to overall wellness. These monumental gifts will allow for great partnership and innovation as we continue to work towards health equity for all.”

“Eskenazi Health Center provides primary care and support services in multiple locations across Marion County. This generous support will help us rigorously evaluate our efforts within these health equity zones and develop a plan for scalability across all of our primary care locations, helping expand our reach as we continue to care for our city’s most vulnerable,” said Lisa Harris, M.D., chief executive officer of Eskenazi Health.

In 2022, the Eskenazi Health Foundation Board of Directors approved the Beyond Barriers campaign – a $60 million initiative which demonstrates Eskenazi Health’s commitment to improving life expectancy equity for all residents of Indianapolis. The goal is to leverage Eskenazi Health’s strengths and partnerships through a first-of-its-kind integrated and sustainable model.

“Eskenazi Health’s support of health equity extends far beyond this campaign,” said John Ackerman, Eskenazi Health Foundation immediate past board chair and co-chair of the Beyond Barriers campaign. “Eskenazi Health has provided care to those in need for more than 160 years. The Beyond Barriers campaign is a longstanding commitment to achieve health equity one neighbor at a time.”

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