The Invitation Program started with a question: Could there be a better way?
A better way of treating disease? Of preventing disease?
Grant County, IN is the home of Taylor University, a Christian liberal arts college, where students interested in healthcare have been asking these questions year after year.
Grant County is also home to some of the nation’s highest rates of preventable chronic diseases, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. These conditions may be significantly improved by sustained lifestyle modifications, especially in the areas of eating, physical activity, and sleep.
When a patient is diagnosed with a condition like type 2 diabetes, their doctor will usually recommend changes to their diet and lifestyle. However, the patient is often left without education, accountability, or support in how to implement these changes.
With this context in mind, Taylor students started asking a new question: “How can we help?”
In 2017, a cohort of students and faculty put together a research proposal for starting a local diabetes prevention clinic. That same year, Marion General Hospital completed a mandatory community health needs assessment, which identified type 2 diabetes as the primary local health need. Taylor professor Dr. Erik Hayes met with the Marion General Hospital CEO, and they discovered a clear synergy between the need identified and Taylor’s proposed solution. This was the beginning of a partnership between local hospital administration and Taylor University, resulting in the founding of The Invitation Program.
The Invitation Program pairs trained student health educators with community members who are seeking a healthier lifestyle. These patients commit to meeting weekly for one year with their health educator to work through a CDC-approved health curriculum, paired with an exercise program tailored to their level of fitness.
This model, where a supportive community is invested in each patient’s success, has proven effective in helping many patients meet their health goals and implement lasting change. The program partners with local doctors within the IU Health network, who may refer their patients to The Invitation Program as part of their plan of care.
The first clinic site was established as a pilot program in a wing of the Upland Diagnostics Center. This site welcomed their first patient in July 2018. Two years later, The Lilly Foundation awarded the program a $1 million grant to expand their work. A second clinic site opened its doors in Hartford City in August 2021.
The name Invitation was inspired in part by the Bible verse John 10:10, where Jesus, the Son of God, says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
In many areas of life, including healthcare, an emphasis is placed on what we cannot or should not do. The goal of The Invitation Program is to “invite” the community to enjoy a sense of abundance that comes through a balanced, healthy lifestyle. The name says it all.
INVITATION: INspire VITAlity and Transformation In Our Neighborhoods.
The Invitation Program presents a unique opportunity for students to gain clinical experience during their undergraduate studies. Most students won’t have that opportunity until graduate school, after they have already committed to a field of study. This practical experience in the clinic also teaches them valuable interpersonal skills, which they take with them into any future profession.
Students who aspire to work with The Invitation Program enroll in a semester-long course of in-depth training. They study the main concepts of a CDC-approved curriculum, work through patient case studies, and complete required observation hours. In addition, they are trained on the standardized physical fitness assessment and exercise program utilized in the clinic. Upon successful completion of this course, students are qualified to take what they have learned and apply it in the Invitation clinic as health educators under the supervision of a clinic director.
The clinic is managed by an interdisciplinary team of Taylor University faculty members, with expertise in the areas of exercise science, psychology, athletic training, and physical therapy. This team is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the clinic, and also provides real-time instruction to the student health educators, coaching them on critical thinking, patient interaction, and clinical documentation.