One Health System's Role in Improving the Health and Safety of a Community

When Community Hospital East, one of five hospitals in the Indianapolis-based Community Health Network System, was confronting the urban issues associated with a declining surrounding neighborhood, the organization looked at innovative ways to help bring back a feeling of community to the area.

The hospital decided to assign a security officer to patrol the areas surrounding the hospital by bicycle as a first step toward bringing a renewed sense of safety to the community surrounding the hospital. The bike patrol generated a "Norman Rockwell-esque" scenario and was soon beckoned beyond the boundaries of the hospital grounds to the local public school, where a member of the bike patrol reinforced a message of bike safety and security to the students and their families.

Bike patrol members are certified through the International Police Mountain Bike Association, and the trainers include a member of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. "We worked with the Marion County Sheriff's Dept. to ensure that our officers met all of their training standards and to develop an authorized uniform for bike duties," says Tom O'Daniel, bike patrol coordinator for Community Hospital East. "Through the training and authorization process, mentioned above we were able to develop a relationship with the local police departments and get the word out that we were working in and around our facilities. Their support and assistance in developing the bike program has been outstanding."

As Community Hospital East increased its visibility in the neighborhood through the bike patrols, a revived neighborhood organization invited the hospital to assist with a family festival that was funded through a grant obtained by a local resident. The hospital not only arranged for bike patrol officers to attend the event, but also supplied brown bag lunches of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for children in the neighborhood.

The total cost of the hospital's participation in the neighborhood event was $250; the cost of putting a sworn, deputized hospital security officer on bike patrols throughout the neighborhood, $1,500 (the cost of the bike itself). But for Community Hospital East, the ROI in generating and reinforcing a message of security and health in the community it serves has been priceless.

"As a result of initiatives such as the bike patrols, our role in the community has been elevated, and the concern for safety of our customers has been shared and honored by the neighborhood," says Dan Hodgkins, executive director of health promotions for Community Health Network. "What was once a neighborhood organization that met once a month with 10 residents showing up to complain and react to issues has been transformed into a proactive group of citizens that recognize their political clout and meet monthly, with at least 60 residents in attendance."

Publication Date: Sunday, February 01, 2009

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