Health and Wellness team takes on ambitious goals under SQL plan

By Marianne Coil

Action teams implementing the SoIndy Quality of Life (SQL) plan met Jan. 24 to kick off their 2017 programs. The Health and Wellness team could have the most ambitious set of goals, according to its chairman, Amie Wojtyna, assistant professor of Kinesiology at the University of Indianapolis.

One of the team’s four goals is to have a positive impact on environmental issues affecting Southside residents, and to do so, the team has found a partner in the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC), she said. HEC will identify challenges in the SoIndy area.

The quality of soil and water will have a large influence on the community’s ability to meet two other goals: To create healthier food options with locally grown produce, and to expand recreational space, Wojtyna said.

Indra Frank

The team’s liaison with HEC is Dr. Indra Frank, a board certified pathologist who specializes in environmental health. With the help of a graduate student, Frank has been compiling data from various sources such as the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

So far, Frank has identified 75 sites classified by IDEM and the EPA as contaminated.  These places include leaking underground storage tanks, landfills, hazardous waste sites, water discharge locations, and brownfields.

A brownfield is land that may have been contaminated during previous use for industrial purposes. To reclaim brownfields, the Southside would need to attract redevelopment investors, Frank said. The list of 75 sites includes four brownfields, she said.

Frank said that restoring abused properties will make the local economy more productive and improve neighborhood morale.

The HEC study is using funds from an Early Action grant from the SQL plan, she said.  The inventory is growing, but Frank wants to present data this summer. Once done, Frank would like to “dig deeper into the potential for human exposure.”

Wojtyna said her team will receive additional support from the Garfield Park Farmers Market, which will intensify efforts to educate SNAP recipients that they can use their benefits at the market May through October. SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for low-income people. 

Recruiting more grocery stores for the USDA-declared food desert on the Southside is also a goal of the action team, she said.

The last of the team’s four goals is to expand health-care options and to form a Southside advocacy group for health care. Wojtyna said UIndy has “great aspirations” to be a community anchor for health care, and that the school is exploring ways to make resources available to the public.