BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—Indiana University O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs Distinguished Professor Lisa Blomgren Amsler and several O’Neill faculty, students, and alumnae are serving as a vital resource on a $600,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for its Community Voices for Health initiative.
The funding, provided to the Bloomington Hospital Foundation and the Community Justice and Mediation Center (CJAM), will support the Community Voices for Health in Monroe County project. Community partners will use the grant to build a stronger engagement infrastructure that involves a broader range of people–especially in marginalized and underserved communities–so their voices are heard in healthcare policymaking decisions.
Amsler, the Keller-Runden Professor of Public Service, will be conducting legal research and sharing the tested models developed early on in the project with local and state partners. Amsler’s work will include workshops and offering engagement toolkits to those partners.
“I’m excited to conduct research on how state law prevents or promotes effective public engagement on health in Monroe County and across Indiana communities,” Amsler said.
The $600,000 grant is one of six nationwide—and the only one in Indiana—designed to create and enhance strong connections and stable systems of engagement to deal with both immediate threats and long-term challenges to public health. The project began April 1 and is expected to run through 2022.
Liz Grenat, CJAM’s executive director, said that while the Community Voices project was planned long before the COVID-19 pandemic, the global crisis has reinforced the idea that greater engagement is needed in local communities.
“Early data coming out of some major cities is already showing that African Americans are disproportionately represented in deaths related to COVID-19,” Grenat said. “In Monroe County, local data shows that marginalized and underrepresented members of our community consistently have some of the poorest health outcomes. It is imperative that we develop strategies to bring healthcare leaders and policy makers to the engagement table in ways that lead to more inclusive decision-making.”
Amsler has hired four Indiana University students to assist in research, and her husband, Terry Amsler, an O’Neill School adjunct lecturer, is serving as chair of the project’s Steering Committee. Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli, director of IU’s Political and Civic Engagement Program, and Stephanie Richards of Gnarly Tree Institute, both O’Neill alumnae, are also serving on the Steering Committee.
The participating O’Neill and Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering undergraduate, Kulsoom Tapal, also a Hudson and Holland scholar, is conducting research on public engagement related to City of Bloomington and Monroe County ordinances, rules, and policies. She is also helping with IT needs for CJAM and will develop a Facebook page and webpage for the project.
About the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington
The O’Neill School is a world leader in public and environmental affairs and is the largest school of public administration and public policy in the United States. In the 2021 "Best Graduate Public Affairs Programs" by U.S. News & World Report, O’Neill ranks first in the country. Additionally, six of its specialty programs are ranked in the top-five listings, including the number one nonprofit management program.