In the beginning of her role as executive director of the Kendrick Foundation, Keylee Wright set an ambitious vision for Morgan County to be ranked one of the top 10 counties in the state of Indiana for health outcomes. The county is currently ranked 41 out of 92 counties. Change takes time, especially when it comes to the overall health of an entire community, but Wright is looking at the bigger picture to make that vision become reality.
Kendrick Foundation is a nonprofit established in 2001 to assist with health-related programs in Morgan County. Wright started working with the Kendrick Foundation in 2019 as its first-ever executive director.
“Looking at this role, it was a good way to use my public health background and work toward improving health which is my passion and purpose,” she said. “It was also an opportunity to diversify my professional experience and grow professionally… The Kendrick Foundation is such an asset to the community. That doesn’t have anything to do with me. We have a tremendous board of directors. They are all volunteers and they’re very dedicated to this work and to Morgan County. It is such a gift to the community.”
THE WRIGHT MOTIVATION
Wright previously worked for the Indiana State Department of Health for 15 years, the last 10 years in cancer prevention and control. “I feel like health and trying to help other people improve their health, that really motivates me,” Wright said. “That is because I’ve had plenty of people in my inner circle who have struggled with their health. I’ve seen them try to work through that and suffer through that. We’ve had a lot of cancer diagnoses in our family. When I was growing up, I had close friends who had childhood cancers. Cancer-related death can be prevented through lifestyle and behavioral modification. That is what really drives me. It is personal, and I felt like I could make a difference. Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking or being more physically active or eating more nutritious foods. It is a combination of things. But that is so worthwhile to me, to think that you prevented one person from having cancer.”
She also pulls motivation to help people in their overall health from a personal experience.
“I was a scholarship athlete,” said Wright, who graduated from Ball State University with a bachelor’s in wellness management and applied gerontology. “I went to college to play volleyball and then I ended up being chronically injured to the point where I had a medical hardship scholarship by my junior year. That was devastating for me. And I attribute that to a poor diet. I ate a lot of fast food, a lot of junk food. I just didn’t fuel myself properly. I felt like because of my poor health choices, I couldn’t do what I loved to do. I would like to help others to not have to go through that.”
HEALTH DATA POINTS
One of the first things Wright dove into was the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps (CHR&R), a program created by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute for communities across the nation. CHR&R provides data in terms of health outcomes and health factors. Health outcomes means the current state of health in the county, looking at issues related to things like quality of life and life expectancy. Health factors looks at health behaviors to determine the future health status of the county. Morgan County is currently ranked 30th in the state for health factors.
“I came in wanting to make people more aware of public health, public health data and evidence-based practices as far as how to most effectively go about improving health,” Wright said. “The board has allowed me the flexibility to work our grants around the County Health Rankings and Road Maps, so when organizations are applying for our grants, their efforts need to be aligned with those strategies and what works for health. The highest priority of those are the scientifically supported and some evidence strategies.”
In Morgan County, some of the health outcomes data states that 19% of adults in Morgan County report poor or fair health and on average, 5.1 poor mental health days and 4.3 poor physical health days in the past 30 days. Sixteen percent report frequent mental distress and 13 percent report frequent physical distress. Health factors and health behaviors may include things like smoking, drinking, obesity, physical activity and more.Read the Full December 2022 Edition Here