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Are sports the key to healthy communities?

By Laura Danielson, Communications Manager, The Polis Center

America's Health Rankings

America’s Health Rankings

I’ve never been a huge sports fan. I mean, sure, I enjoy watching the occasional championship game or filling out an NCAA bracket, but to be perfectly honest, I still choose my bracket winner based on which mascot I like best.

But lately, it seems all I hear about in the news is sports. Last weekend, America watched the Indy 500 end with a completely unexpected finish as first-time winner Tony Kanaan captured the coveted checkered flag in a nail-biting victory. Basketball fans all over are watching the NBA Eastern Conference finals to see if the Indiana Pacers can truly “beat the Heat.” And in local news, the Indy Parks Foundation, in partnership with IPL and the Pacers Foundation, just broke ground on the new Tamika Catchings Court at Thatcher Park Family Center. The new court is part of a larger multi-million dollar project to renovate and improve outdoor basketball courts in an effort to provide safe recreational activities for Indianapolis kids. Read more about this project.

I got to thinking, why do we care so much about sports? Entertainment, of course. But also because sports are a way to stay fit and healthy. So, in a way, when we promote a sports-minded community, we also promote healthy activity. When we encourage our children to participate in sports or physical activity, we are motivating them to be active.

Jay Gladden, dean of the IU School of Physical Education and Tourism Management at IUPUI, agrees. The school partnered with the American College of Sports Medicine to host an open Sports Innovation Forum yesterday at the NCAA to discuss recent trends and innovation in sports and physical activity in Central Indiana.

“We are considering ways that Central Indiana could become a hub or point of significant activity around innovation and sports and exercise, with a focus on improved health outcomes,” Gladden said. “With obesity statistics where they are for adults and children and with new health care legislation coming into play, the time is right to begin this conversation, given the many opportunities that will exist for products and programs.” Read the full press release.

The time is right, indeed. The United Health Foundation’s annual America’s Health Rankings report for 2012 listed Indiana as the ninth unhealthiest state in the nation (or 41st healthiest, if you want to be optimistic). The report, which considers factors such as smoking, obesity, alcohol use, education, and public health funding, reveals some very troubling statistics for Indiana.

 – More than 25% of adults smoke.

– Nearly one-third (30.8%) of the adult population is obese.

– Nearly 30% of adults live a sedentary lifestyle.

Let’s consider those stats next to a few health outcome measures.

– More than 30% of adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

– Nearly 40% of adults have reported high cholesterol.

There is (sort of) a silver lining in that Americans are living longer, primarily due to advancements in medicine. But is it really a good thing if we’re living longer but we’re living sicker and are less healthy? It’s clear that we need to discuss options to impact positive change in Indiana’s health. Perhaps increasing our focus on sports and youth physical activity is the place to begin.

What do YOU think?


Future Social Workers Learn Value of Data

Slide 1

By Laura Danielson, Communications Manager, The Polis Center

We’re always excited to learn how our SAVI community is using our tools. Because that’s the whole draw of SAVI – it’s incredibly user-friendly! The IU School of Social Work at IUPUI even requires its graduate students to incorporate SAVI data into their final projects. Naturally, I felt compelled to see the results, so Jay Colbert (SAVI Project Manager) and I attended the school’s end-of-the-year poster presentation. And let me tell you, these students are talented! But there was one poster that really captured my attention. And after speaking to the students who created it, I wanted to learn more.

An interview with Suprena McKinney and Amelia Allen

Laura: Before we get into the details of your project, tell me a bit about yourselves. What’s your background? What are you studying?

Suprena: I’m a social work major, and I graduate this year. I’m going into child welfare.

Amelia: And I’m actually doing the same thing!

Laura: Wow, really? Exactly the same thing?

Amelia: Yep, we’re in the same program, I’m graduating, too, and we’ll both be working for the Department of Child Services.

Laura: Well, that’s coincidental. You had four team members, right?

Amelia: Yes, Rachel Harris and Sara Renneisen also contributed to our project. But they have different areas of research focus.

Laura: Ok, let’s talk about your project. Describe it for me.

Suprena: We had to identify a community that we were not familiar with, and then determine the needs and assets of that community. That helped to develop our research question. Is this community needs-based or assets-based? How can we recommend an opportunity to provide that community with empowering social change?

Laura: And which community did you choose?

Suprena: We chose the Eagledale community.

Laura: Any particular reason why you chose Eagledale?

Amelia: It has so much culture and diversity! It has a large Hispanic population and lots of international influences in the grocery stores, restaurants, etc.

Laura: What were the objectives and goals of your project?

Suprena: We wanted to implement the community practice skills we learned over the semester.

Amelia: Some of that meant going into the community itself and visually identify areas where the community was lacking or areas where it had strengths.

Laura: Can you give me an example?

Suprena: We went into the community thinking its population was Hispanic, White, and Black. But then we visited the Saraga International Grocery Store, and we really saw what a diverse community it caters to…African, Vietnamese, huge diversity of cultures. And it made me think, “Wouldn’t this neighborhood benefit from a cultural center?” So we proposed a cultural awareness center to allow community members to showcase their cultures and also learn about other cultures.

Amelia: Another thing we noticed in the community is that there weren’t a lot of facilities that could provide entertainment for the youth. There were no movie theaters or malls, or anything positive to attract young people. And we knew there was a large youth population because of the data we found in SAVI. There are four schools in Eagledale, so we thought we should also include an education component to the community center and recommend it as a youth community center to celebrate diversity. It could offer tutoring, mentoring, and physical activities and recreation.

Laura: What a great idea! You said you used SAVI to inform your recommendation. Can you talk a bit more about that process?

Suprena: Sure. We started with the demographics, employment, and education data to get an overview of the community. But when we looked at the education data, we noticed something disconcerting. Persons with a diploma and persons without were actually equal. So we thought, naturally, that one of our goals would be to cultivate an environment that encourages attainment of a diploma more than already exists.

Laura: That’s interesting. So you used the vulnerability indicators to determine the needs of the community. Data obviously played a significant role in your research project. Did it reveal any other surprising findings?

Amelia: I was surprised at how many single-parent households there were. Obviously, a single parent will have different challenges in raising their children, so I think a youth center could really be a benefit to the community.

Laura: Was this your first time using SAVI?

Amelia: Yes, it was for our whole team. I actually wish I would have learned about it sooner because it would have helped me in so many of my other projects!

Suprena: Agreed. It’s a really valuable resource – especially for social workers. I’ll continue to use it.

Amelia: It was also really user-friendly, and I love that it gave me the option to save my project so I didn’t have to recreate work each time I wanted to look up data.

Laura: That’s great to hear! Thanks to both of you for sitting down with me, and good luck in your new jobs!

New Demographic Trends Emerge in Marion County’s Growing Population

By Jay Colbert, GIS Project Manager, The Polis Center

In celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, I thought I’d explore some of the changing population trends in Indianapolis with regards to this demographic.

meThe U.S. Census Bureau records Asian and Pacific Islander demographics separately. In Marion County, the Pacific Islander population is negligible at only 0.05% of the total population. But you may be surprised to learn that in the last few years, we’ve seen a growing number in the Asian population in this county.

Let’s start by looking at the overall distribution of demographics in Marion County.

From this perspective, the Asian population is still very small (2.03%) compared to White, Black, and all other races. However, if we drill down a little further, we notice that the Asian population, while relatively small, has experienced a fairly significant increase in the past 10 years. From 2000 to 2010, the Asian population increased by 41%.

When a race or culture of the population grows, it tends to do so within spatial clusters. Think of how New York City developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with waves of immigrants. Neighborhoods began to become labeled as “Little Italy,” “Chinatown,” etc.

I wanted to see if this trend held true in Indianapolis, too, and it does! By far, Perry Township has the highest (and fastest growing) Asian population in Marion County. Although note that  Clay Township, Hamilton County, and Clark Township, Johnson County both have Asian population is over 8%.

A township is still a fairly large geography, though, and I wanted to drill down as far as I could. As the following map shows, of Perry Township’s 20 census tracts, one tract has the highest Asian population at 26%.

Finding detailed demographics data like this can be very beneficial to existing community organizations and can encourage the development of new organizations or services to meet changing needs. In 1986, for example, the Asian Help Services (AHS) was established by the United Methodist Church Metropolitan Ministries as a nonprofit serving Asian immigrants, refugees, businesses, students, and visitors. It strives to make their transition to Central Indiana smoother by helping them to bridge many language and cultural barriers. There are a number of other organizations with similar missions, some of which are highlighted in the map below.

In conclusion, in order to serve your community, you must first understand your community.

Statistics every mother should know about her community

By Michelle Jones, GIS Analyst, The Polis Center

There are a number of reasons that a mom would be interested in the community statistics I reference in this post. Maybe you’re thinking about moving and you want to scout the area out beforehand to ensure that it’s safe. Maybe your child is sick and you’re looking for a health clinic near your home or place of employment. Or maybe you’re simply curious, and you want to see how your community stacks up against your neighbors’. Whatever the reason, here are 3 statistics that every mother should know.

1. How safe is your neighborhood?

Every mother wants to protect her child(ren) from crime. In the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department area, the rates of violent crime and property crime per 1,000 population has remained relatively stable over the last 5 years.

So how informed are you? Do you know the violent crime rate in your neighborhood? You can use SAVI to find out. Here’s how in a few short steps:

  • Go to
  • Click USE SAVI
  • From the “Quick Information” page, choose “All Part 1 Crimes and Simple Assaults” from the Crime data

The default map is by census tracts, but you can easily change the reporting level to neighborhoods by selecting neighborhoods from the dropdown box. If you decide to change any map settings (including reporting level) be sure to click the “Update View” button.

Here’s a map showing the Violent Crime per 1,000 population by neighborhoods in Marion County. So immediately, we can see that there are 10 neighborhoods with more than 63 reports of violent crime per 1,000 people.

Violent Crime per 1,000 population by neighborhoods in Marion County

Violent Crime per 1,000 population by neighborhoods in Marion County

2. Where are the nearest health care facilities?

As we know, children have a tendency to get sick frequently. Whether is it a fever, cold, stuffy nose you know that you’ll need to find a health care facility near your home. You can use SAVI to find the nearest health care facilities near your home and/or your place of employment. SAVI provides the name of the facility along with the address and phone number. Here is a map created on SAVI displaying the Community Health Centers and Clinics near 38th and Post Rd in Indianapolis.

Community Health Centers and Clinics near 38th and Post Rd in Indianapolis

Community Health Centers and Clinics near 38th and Post Rd in Indianapolis

3. Are there daycare centers near your home?

When looking for child care near your home you need to remember that there are differently varieties of child care. Not only are there day care centers, but there are also licensed home day cares and day care ministries (or church day cares). When looking at day cares near the 38th and Post Rd area in Indianapolis we can see there are only 3 day care centers. The majority of the child care in this area is offered by licensed home day cares centers followed by day care ministries.



These data come directly from the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA). Check out their website ( to view other valuable resources for you and your family. Their website will provide information about Medicaid and other health plans, food assistance, cash assistance, job training, head start programs, and more. To learn about the quality of a daycare, check out its Paths to Quality rating on the FSSA website.

These are just a handful of helpful statistics that SAVI has available about communities. Want to learn more about your neighborhood and the kid-friendly recreation activities and organizations near you? Go to and find out. If you are having trouble finding statistics about your community, feel free to contact us at or 317.274.2455.

Don’t forget to wish your mother a Happy Mother’s Day this Sunday!


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