On September 7, Orange County received recognition as a community that is dedicated to improving the health and quality of life of its citizens through the Wellness Council of Indiana’s (WCI) Indiana Healthy Community initiative. It is an evidence-based collaboration process designed to help communities focus on implementing and sustaining a culture of health and well-being to spur economic vitality. Through this process, the WCI helps communities assess their programs, services, and infrastructure in four areas: health, economy, environment, and community.

The Wellness Council’s Director of Community and Employer Engagement Ashley O’Rourke says, “This initiative guides communities down the path toward healthier places to live, work, learn and play. We work with communities across the state of Indiana to convene key stakeholders and assess what is needed to improve citizens quality of life and community economic vitality. Orange County has been recognized as leaders in championing better community health and quality of life. We are pleased to share that they have completed the designation process and named a designated Indiana Healthy Community. Orange County’s Indiana Healthy Community mission is to: Improve the physical and mental health of Orange County citizens by providing access ad resources that promote health and wellness throughout our community, making this a great place to live, work, and play. I have remained impressed by this community’s intentional approach to both the needs of their community, as well as where they can make the greatest impact. They are a testament that it takes deliberate planning, execution and evaluation with a strong mission and vision to achieve meaningful, impactful change.”

Communities use data from the WCl assessment and other sources to determine needs and take action by developing a Healthy Community Action Plan with goals and objectives. The designation from the WCI recognizes communities that have taken steps to improve the health and quality of life of their citizens. There is a heavy focus on OC healthy workplaces and employer involvement, as the initiative uses the community health conversation to drive economic vitality. During the creation of the 2-year action plan, it was noted the importance of having Orange County businesses learn about the important opportunity of going through WCI’s AchieveWELL process, which helps businesses in creating a corporate culture that encourages and supports employee health through work site wellness initiatives.

This state-wide achievement was facilitated by Orange County Economic Development Partnership and a coalition of key community stakeholders, that came together to collaborate on the comprehensive cycle. The Orange County Wellness Coalition consists of OCEDP, Purdue Extension-OC, and Orange County Health Coalition.

Kristal Painter, Executive Director, Orange County Economic Development Partnership stated, “In order to retain and attract population and workforce to our community, it’s important to focus on the health and wellbeing of our citizens. Going through the assessment process to become an Indiana Health Community allowed us to take a hard look at what we’re doing right as a community and where we could use some improvement to help elevate healthy lifestyle choices for our current and future community members. We created our 2-year Action Plan with a focus on assisting businesses through the AchieveWELL process, so our workforce is exposed to wellness initiatives and making improvements to some outdoor spaces to provide better access to recreation”

Orange County was formally recognized at the 2022 Indiana Wellness Summit on September 22, 2022. OCEDP will visit upcoming town council meetings in Orleans, Paoli, West Baden, and French Lick to discuss the designation and to request hanging the designation signage in a public space or park to promote health and wellbeing.