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(The Center Square) – Indiana plans to spend $50 million in state money to find ways to make Hoosiers more healthy.

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law a bill that establishes a state health improvement plan to attack the state’s declining public health by giving away $50 million in grants over two years to programs that address health disparities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the need to take a closer look at the health disparities across the state,” Rep. Steve Davisson, R-Salem, said. “We must invest in the well-being of all Hoosiers, and these grants provide additional tools for our communities to address common health issues.”

Rep. Karen Engleman, R-Georgetown, said the grant program will give preference to proposals focused on improving chronic health problems such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

A recent report by the United Health Foundation showed more Indiana residents smoke more than most in other states, and it ranks among the worst in physical activity.

Indiana ranked 36th in America’s Health Rankings 2020 Annual Report. The foundation said the report is the longest-running annual review of the country’s health on a state-by-state basis.

Indiana’s health struggles showed in other areas as well. The state is near the bottom on public health funding and air pollution.

Only 21.1% of Hoosiers get either 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. That’s compared with 23% of all Americans. Vermont leads the nation at 28.5%. 

The foundation noted a study showing those who spend less time getting exercise spend about $920 more per year on health care. 

The annual report found that 21% of people in the state suffer from depression, while 11.7% suffer from multiple chronic conditions, with 27% suffering from arthritis. Also, 35.3% of Hoosiers are suffering from obesity.

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