Health First Indiana celebrated during Public Health Day
About 200 physicians, nurses and other health professionals gathered at the Statehouse on Feb. 22 for the second annual Public Health Day, with a notable shift in emphasis.

Last year’s Public Health Day was an opportunity for physicians to make the case for the importance of public health and to support the Holcomb administration’s proposal to dramatically increase state funding for local health initiatives. Legislators responded with $225 million in funding over two years.

Last week’s event celebrated the creation of the program, now called Health First Indiana, and highlighted how the first $75 million is being spent.

Health First Indiana empowers local health departments to identify and address their counties’ most pressing health issues. 

Steuben County Health Department administrator Alicia Walsh said the funding boost has enabled the county to make plans for a sexually transmitted disease clinic and expand other services. In Daviess County, public health nurse Kathy Sullender said the funding has allowed the county’s new tuberculosis clinic, which opened in 2022 after a sharp increase in cases, to expand services to neighboring counties. The county has also started a free mobile clinic, with particular emphasis on serving large Haitian and Hispanic communities.

Daviess County health officer Merle Holsopple, MD, said Health First Indiana gives his county a reliable funding source to plan for the future, instead of relying on grants that may not be renewed. He predicted the increased investment in public health will create a healthier population, which in turn will bring costs down.

Indiana Health Commissioner Lindsay Weaver, MD, said she has visited 45 counties to see how the new funding is being used, with plans to travel to the rest.

Dr. Weaver declared the program is “setting the bar” for other states now considering their own public health expansions. Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a video that Health First Indiana’s impact will be “transformational.”

All but six counties have opted into the program. All counties will have a chance to accept their share of the second installment of $150 million when the new fiscal year begins July 1.

Photos provided by the Indiana State Department of Health.


State Health Commissioner Lindsay Weaver, MD, FACEP, kicks off Public Health Day at the Statehouse on Feb. 22.

A large crowd gathered in support of public health at the Indiana Statehouse on Feb. 22.