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Chambers Of Commerce Push Business Leaders To Help Improve Indiana's Health

aJ Gazmen

Indiana health leaders say Hoosiers need to be healthier to keep the state's economy humming.

Chuck Gillespie heads the Wellness Council of Indiana, a nonprofit owned by the Indiana Chamber.

He says health care costs are second only to payroll for most companies -- and more companies are looking at health rankings when they decide where to locate.

In most of those rankings, from smoking rates to infant mortality, Indiana's near the bottom.

Gillespie says the council will work with state and local health groups to try to prod consumers into taking better care of themselves.

“Eat right. Move more. Avoid tobacco. It’s pretty simple stuff, problem is it’s hard to really get people to do that unless there’s that social component and unless there’s that purpose component,” Gillespie says. “And I think those are some key pieces that we’ve got to start to spend a lot more time thinking through.”

The Indiana State Department of Health's INShape Indiana program will launch a campaign next month linked to Indiana's Bicentennial, with 200 ways to get healthier.

And Gillespie says local health groups can tailor recommendations to their regions -- hilly southern Indiana might put more emphasis on hiking and biking, while counties along Lake Michigan might stress swimming and other water activities.

But state health commissioner Jerome Adams says when it comes to specific health policies like a stronger workplace smoking ban, it's business leaders who will carry the most weight at the statehouse.

“What matters to our legislators, what matters to the people of Indiana is business, is you all. It’s not me,” Adams says. “I’ll come in and they’ll listen to me and they’ll give me accolades and say, ‘Hey, alright, alright’ and then I’ll leave the room and they go to you all and say, ‘Now what do you all really want?’”

Adams and Gillespie spoke at an Indianapolis "Health Means Business" conference. It's the latest in a string of nine health forums the U.S. Chamber began last summer.

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