Legislative-Briefs-Government-actions-on-obesity

Legislative Briefs: Government actions on obesity

Folding student health into education talks
Louisiana's educational system is the hot topic at the state Capitol this month in Baton Rouge. Lawmakers are in session to debate the details of hundreds of bills, including education reform endorsed by Gov. Bobby Jindal. In addition to those pieces of legislation are two separate bills seeking health reforms for children in schools as well as daycare centers.

The Louisiana Obesity Council Work Group, whose members include the Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC), is endorsing one bill that would create physical activity standards for child daycare centers. House Bill 993, authored by state Rep. Patrick Williams, D-Shreveport, would require centers to provide its children with at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day and limit time in front of television and computer screens to no more than 60 minutes per day. The bill includes exceptions for physical activity for children under the age of two and those who are sick or have a disability.

A second bill endorsed by the state obesity work group would establish a Coordinated School Health system, a comprehensive approach to health services for every school and school district. That bill, which is still being drafted as of mid-March, is based on a model used in other states that connects physical, emotional and social health with education. It would coordinate the efforts of school-based health centers, health and nutrition education, wellness programs for school staff, healthy food offerings and other services. After this model was implemented in Tennessee, participating schools saw reduced obesity rates and increased graduation rates, according to that state's education officials.

American Heart Association holds Advocacy Day at the state Capitol
The American Heart Association is hosting an Advocacy Day April 10 for its staff and its partners in Baton Rouge. The national organization's Louisiana office is holding a training session that will also include a trip to the Legislature, which is currently in session. If you would like to participate in or learn more about Advocacy Day, contact Berry Burnside, Louisiana Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association, at Berry.Burnside@heart.org.

‘Complete Streets’ plans roll forward in New Orleans
The process for repairing, repaving and building roads in New Orleans is getting revamped this month, as city officials begin making plans to follow a new "complete streets" policy. City and state officials from various departments, such as the Department of Public Works, City Planning Commission and the Regional Transit Authority, came together for a workshop in March to help them begin the implementation process.

The complete streets policy, unanimously passed by the City Council in December, requires that streets are designed and constructed for all users, and not just motorists. This means considering installing bike lanes, sidewalks, bus-stop shelters, crosswalks and signs warning motorists of bus loading areas and pedestrians. But not all complete streets look the same, depending on various factors such as available space and traffic volume.

The Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC) and the PRC-led KidsWalk Coalition were among the groups that helped draft the policy.

In the past, the city has made some "complete streets" improvements, such as adding bike lanes and sidewalks to streets incrementally, though not as a matter of policy. The deadline is December 2012 for the city to incorporate complete streets standards into its operations.

By Naomi King, Tulane Prevention Research Center

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