I am amazed, in awe, and inspired by the way many nonprofit leaders – many of whom are women – are leading their organizations through the uncertainty brought on by COVID-19. So much so, that I’ve decided to do a special series about Badass Nonprofit and Small Business Executive Women who are living in the trenches, working to keep their nonprofit running, and doing critical work to continue to serve individuals and families during this crisis. I’m curious about their work and the people they’re serving, their biggest concerns, and how they are taking care of themselves and those around them. So I asked!

Julie Burns, CEO, Jump IN for Healthy Kids

Julie has been with Jump IN for Healthy Kids since 2014, where she has served in the roles of Senior VP of Program Operations and Chief Operations Officer before being named CEO in 2017. She has a strong background in operations, health care, and employer wellness programs to help shape and launch Jump IN’s initiatives. No matter what role she’s in, she is committed to improving the health of our kids today before it negatively impacts them as adults.

Q.  Who are you serving and how are you serving them during this crisis?

A.  Jump IN for Healthy Kids works to integrate healthy best practices into the policies, systems, and environments where kids spend most of their time (places, neighborhoods, and communities) for lasting impact. During this crisis, we are working with our partners to plan and implement strategies for improvements so that when things are up and running again, our partners will be ahead of where they were in integrating nutrition and physical activity best practices. Because we are not a direct programming organization, our work has not been reduced during this time.  In fact, we are finding ourselves busier than ever as many of our partners have the capacity to do this work and are recognizing the critical connection between the work that we do and how it impacts the health of central Indiana residents.

Q.  Have you added, changed, or deleted any services because of COVID-19?

A.  There are two answers to this.

1) While our work hasn’t changed dramatically, this crisis has raised awareness of public health needs in central Indiana, and many of our partners have made enormous shifts in how they work. We are adjusting to our partners’ needs and figuring out the opportunities to best help them. For example, the school districts that we work with are not only designing and implementing e-learning, they are finding themselves as the primary food provider for thousands of families. We help schools implement nutrition and physical activity best practices, so we are figuring out how to support schools when they are trying to provide shelf-stable boxed meals that need to last five to six days for families and how to help schools encourage physical activity at home. What tools do they need to succeed, especially if this continues into the 2020-2021 school year? How can we best support them when school buildings are closed but schools are still very much at work? 

2) While our work hasn’t changed, our communication has. We release a blog post every week and post multiple times on social media each week. Normally, our public-facing communication focuses on nutrition and physical activity best practices in one of the sectors that we work in: early childhood education, workplace wellness, schools, food access, public policy, and built environment. Our blogs and social media are still focused on health, but now we’re aligning them much more with the coronavirus impact and sharing local and national resources related to it.

Q.  What are your biggest concerns right now?

A.  My biggest concern is the health of central Indiana residents. The connection between our work and health outcomes has never been starker. Indiana consistently ranks between 40-50 among all states in terms of health, so we have a high percentage of residents who suffer from chronic health conditions. Obesity puts people at greater risk of the chronic conditions (diabetes, heart disease, cancer) that make patients more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 outcomes. African Americans are disproportionately facing severe and fatal impacts of COVID-19. Emerging data indicates that communities of color, who are at higher risk for obesity, are also being harder hit by COVID-19. People with obesity are in greater danger when facing the virus.

Q.  How are you taking care of yourself, your staff, and your clients?

A.  We are taking advantage of this time with our partners who have the capacity to focus on the work we’re moving forward.  Some of our initiatives are actually moving more quickly during this quarantine time than they may have been if things were working normally. Our meetings are all online, and as we work from our homes, there is something more personal about the nature of our conversations. I would imagine that’s true across many organizations and businesses. We’re all showing our colleagues a glimpse into our lives, so there is an innate intimacy that has come out of this change in how we meet.  As far as our Jump IN team, we have a standing video staff meeting every Tuesday morning to check in on our projects and plan our next steps. On Friday afternoons we have a standing video touch-base, where we talk about how our lives are going during quarantine – we even have a moratorium on work talk. Kids and a grandkid of our team members make appearances, and sometimes a glass of wine does as well. It’s a good mental health check for everyone as we navigate all of this and a nice ritual to transition our mental focus from the work week to the weekend. 

Q.  What is your biggest need right now and how can people support your organization?

A.  The single biggest need we have right now is for people to begin to understand how much more money and attention needs to be invested in Indiana’s public health. Indiana currently ranks 49th in public health funding, and we’re seeing how that impacts people in many ways: limited food access, limited access to health care, poor public transportation, more chronic health conditions, poor housing options, and many more. These issues are very complex, and it will take a huge, collaborative effort to do it. If this pandemic doesn’t convince people, it’s hard to imagine what will.  

The second thing that people can do right now is stay healthy (or improve your health). We have many resources in our Resource Hub that can help and support efforts, including the 5-2-1-0 concept (5 fruits and vegetables, 2 hours or less of screen time – especially hard right now!, 1 hour or more of physical activity, and 0 sugary drinks).  We have several blog posts offering many tools and resources families can use during quarantine as well. We encourage people to sign up for our weekly blog and to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Q.  What are you reading, watching, listening to, or doing to get through this?

A.  Home projects are happening – house updates and file drawer cleaning. I’m about halfway through our office file cabinets and my husband is completing an online inventory for insurance purposes.

I am listening to a lot of James Taylor, my favorite artist, and the jazz channels as background noise.  Belgravia and The English Game, both by Julian Fellows, are now in our Netflix and Epix rotations. 

I am trying to keep a good routine of healthy eating and physical activity.  It always helps my focus, energy levels, and just immunity to bad vibes in general.  A burst of physical activity always gets me out of a bad mood or deep funk when things seem bad.

I keep thinking I will read more fiction and mysteries, but right now I am reading a book about training a new puppy.  Our new puppy joined us May 6. It has been about 16 years since I’ve had one this young and small. We will need all the help we can get keeping up with her.

 Here are recent blog posts with information and resources families can use right now:

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