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home : columnists : columnists August 22, 2017

New laws fostering a healthier Indiana

By Kathy Kreag Richardson
Indiana State Representative, District 29

Among the new laws enacted this session are policies focusing on the health of Hoosiers. Cervical cancer, strokes and meningitis have caused multiple deaths in our state, so lawmakers took action this session to address these important public health matters.

According to the Indiana Cancer Consortium, approximately 250 new cervical cancer cases and 86 cervical cancer-related deaths occur annually among women in Indiana. A new policy recently signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb requires the Indiana State Department of Health to develop a statewide strategic plan to decrease Indiana's cervical cancer mortality rate. The state would work to identify barriers to cervical cancer prevention, screening and treatment, develop public and private partnerships to increase cervical cancer awareness and recommend actions to reduce the number of Hoosier deaths associated with the disease.

This comprehensive approach fostering collaboration among ISDH, medical experts and health-care providers will help the state establish a targeted plan to reduce cervical cancer in the state. The disease is largely preventable by receiving regular screenings, avoiding certain risk factors and getting vaccinations. The new law will establish steps to educate the public and raise awareness about how to prevent and better treat cervical cancer.

When someone shows symptoms of a stroke, they require immediate medical attention. The right care, right away, can make a huge difference as to the outcome of the medical emergency. Our state is taking steps to better ensure stroke patients get improved treatment by requiring emergency medical services personnel to be better trained on how to identify and treat stroke sufferers.

According to the American Stroke Association, many people miss out on key brain-saving treatments because they don't arrive at the hospital in time, which is why it's so important to identify a stroke and seek help immediately. To help Hoosiers receive the best possible chance at recovery, EMS providers will also begin to have access to vital information about area hospitals best equipped to treat stroke patients.

Another health threat is meningitis, which is an infectious disease that can result in permanent disabilities and even deaths. While Indiana follows the Centers for Disease Control protocol by requiring high school students to receive the meningococcal vaccination, not all states and countries follow these recommendations. This can become an issue at our universities where students are in close contact with one another. If a student attends a university in Indiana, and they happen to be from one of the 13 states or another country that doesn't require vaccinations, then they increase everyone's risk of contracting meningitis.

Lawmakers are closing this loophole by requiring all students attending a university in Indiana to receive the meningitis vaccine. The new policy does allow for an opt-out option based on religious and health reasons.

These new laws work to improve the quality of life throughout Indiana, and hopefully, prevent deaths. By increasing awareness, encouraging prevention and providing quality care, our state will be healthier, and ultimately, stronger.

Kathy Kreag Richardson is a Republican State Representative from District 29, which includes Noblesville, and has served in the legislature since 1992. She also is the elections administrator for Hamilton County. You may contact her at h29@in.gov.

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