Improving-Louisianas-health-is-forefront-for-lawmaker

Improving Louisiana's health is forefront for lawmaker

By Naomi Englar

State Sen. David Heitmeier, D-New Orleans, is on a mission to improve the state's health this spring with help from the Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC).

"As chairman of the Louisiana Senate Health and Welfare Committee, I know we need to make changes statewide if we want to become healthier," Heitmeier said. "The Tulane PRC has provided me with valuable information on best practices, resources and health statistics."
The Tulane PRC conducted research on various state-level solutions that can help improve public health and is sharing the information with the Louisiana State Legislature and other key stakeholders.

"Louisiana is among the unhealthiest states in the nation, ranking 48th in the United Health Foundation’s annual America’s Health Rankings," said Diego Rose, the Tulane PRC's lead faculty on the project. "Two of the most important indicators for this rank are the state's obesity rate and smoking rate. We can facilitate the role of individual responsibility in solving these problems if we successfully tailor our school, neighborhood and office environments so that the healthy choice is the easy choice."

The state's obesity rate is 35 percent of adults, while the smoking rate is 25 percent of adults. To address these rates and costly related diseases, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, Sen. Heitmeier translated the Tulane PRC's research into the following policy solutions that he authored and introduced for the state's legislative session this spring:

  • State Task Forces and Committees on Obesity: Louisiana currently lacks a statewide task force or committee to coordinate efforts addressing obesity.
  • Menu-Labeling in Restaurants: While the federal government requires calories on chain restaurant menus, the state has some authority to create its own regulations for menu-labeling.
  • Complete Streets: Louisiana has the fifth highest pedestrian death rate in the country. Complete Streets require governments to consider all modes of transportation – cars, walkers, bikers, public transit riders and people with disabilities – when building or repairing roads.
  • Smoke-Free School Zones: All public schools are smoke-free campuses in Louisiana. Zones around schools would extend the smoke-free area beyond campus property.
  • Lactation Support in the Workplace: Louisiana can support working moms by creating rooms or private spaces in more state-owned buildings for mothers to express breast milk.
  • Women, Infants and Children Cash Value Vouchers at Farmers Markets: This WIC food assistance program is currently accepted at farmers markets in some states but not Louisiana.
  • Water Availability in Schools: Promoting drinking water instead of sugary drinks in schools can help improve concentration and energy levels in students and reduce the risk of obesity.
  • Joint-Use Agreements: Allowing local governing entities, like school districts, to share use of properties can help communities access places for physical activity.
  • Farm to School: Because children consume a large portion of calories at school, making local fresh fruits and vegetables part of the meals can improve their diets and help local farmers.

For more information about these strategies, visit the publications section of the Tulane PRC's website by clicking here.

(May 2014)

Topics:   obesity , nutrition , diet , physical activity , school food , built environment , food environment , sidewalks , bike lanes , community health , policy , farmers market , wic , early childhood health ,

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