The second county to see the benefits of the Connections IN Health community engagement project was Vermillion County. Through listening sessions, Vermillion County health coalition members, Vermillion County residents and community partners, and the Connections IN Health team collectively identified poverty as the most pressing health issue.
Poverty was chosen as the major health challenge the group wanted to address because of its prevalence in the county and concerns that there may be a lack of knowledge of resources available to support those living in poverty. . Poverty is an obstacle that stunts social and economic development. It creates a lack of resources because of the financial strain, which leads to health disparities for all who are affected.
“It is reasonable to assume that people with money have never been in or experienced poverty and cannot, or do not understand the issues associated with it or how that hinders someone’s ability to work and live,” said Mary Margaret Rhees, chairperson of the poverty working group for the Vermillion – Parke Health Coalition.
Rhees goes on to explain that if the help they are trying to provide can affect just one person’s life, then it is worth it to make every effort.
“I want to convey that if you understand more about poverty, you can understand that all you need is to reach one person and help them step up,” said Rhees.
The Connections IN Health team and the Vermillion – Parke Health Coalition poverty working group members conducted a community readiness assessment and based on those results have offered opportunities to learn more about poverty with the goal of helping combat poverty in the Vermillion County community. Purdue Extension offered professional development opportunities such as Bridges Out of Poverty and a Poverty Simulation. Other coalition members have developed resources and projects to have a direct impact on those living in poverty.
One of the resources that has been supported is The Power of Produce, a program that encourages community togetherness by bringing families with children in and giving them an opportunity to try new products to promote overcoming picky eating.
The Vermillion – Parke Health Coalition also hopes to refurbish the South Vermillion High School greenhouse to give community members a local garden where they can plant vegetable starter plants and learn techniques that can help them build their own home garden.
The Eugene Station Community Garden is another garden that launched in May 2021 with its funding coming from the Cardiovascular and Diabetes Coalition of Indiana, a Connections IN Health Initiative.
We will be sharing stories of other county engagement efforts in the next few months. Visit here to view the first story about the county engagement project, and read more here about the Grant County story.