As Indiana continues to lag behind the national average in COVID-19 vaccinations, and with many Hoosiers expressing distrust of healthcare leaders, Gov. Eric Holcomb has announced the formation of a commission to study the state’s public health system.
The 15-member commission will be co-chaired by former state Sen. Luke Kenley and Dr. Judy Monroe, a former Indiana state health commissioner.
In his announcement, Holcomb, a Republican, did not specifically mention the COVID pandemic and the widespread resistance to vaccines among voters and officeholders within his party. Nationally, vaccine-resistance has been stoked by many Republican leaders and by conservative media outlets.
The governor’s statement spoke generally about the purpose of the review, saying it “will best position Indiana to be a great state to live, work, play and invest in and grow a healthy workforce.”
The executive order itself [PDF] does reference the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it “has highlighted challenges within Indiana’s public health system and the need for modernization.” Among the commission’s tasks will be to “analyze state and local health departments’ response to the pandemic.”
The order also acknowledges that “Indiana ranks 41st overall in the nation based on all public health measures evaluated by America’s Health Rankings (2019) as measured by our lower life expectancies and higher health care costs.” Even before the pandemic, Indiana has historically ranked below average on a wide range of public health measures. According to the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, “Indiana is at least 10% below the US average rate for preventable mortality such as infant deaths, accident deaths, and alcohol, drug, and suicide deaths.” [PDF]
According to the governor’s office, the commission have the task forces addressing the following:
- Emergency Preparedness: Analyze state and local health departments’ response to the pandemic, make recommendations for the future
- Funding: Review the current funding level and sources for public health and make recommendations for how to standardize
- Governance and Services: Review the structure of public health governance, number of local health departments, accreditation efforts
- Workforce: Evaluate staffing levels to promote necessary access to care and positive health outcomes, including both public health and clinical workforces
- Data Collection and Utilization: Review the data collected and establish uniformity and a standardized approach; Look at ways to use data to transform public health delivery
- Childhood and Adolescent Health Integration: Review services delivered to children and adolescents and identify ways to promote access to healthcare for children and families