Legislative-Briefs-Government-actions-on-obesity

Legislative Briefs: Government actions on obesity

Programs aim to revitalize blighted lots, build healthy communities in New Orleans
Blighted, vacant and overgrown properties are in nearly every neighborhood in New Orleans. These problematic lots often generate crime, hurt neighborhood economic activity, and can prevent residents from participating in outdoor physical activity and accessing healthy food outlets. To chip away at the number of vacant lots, multiple programs and initiatives are currently underway.
The New Orleans City Council’s Community Development Committee voted in July to recommend the council establish a “Mow to Own” program for the city. The details have not been worked out yet, but the program would allow landowners to buy next-door tax-adjudicated properties if the land owner maintains the property for at least a year.
Additionally, the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) has several programs aimed at revitalizing blighted properties by giving them a new purpose and helping neighborhoods become safer, healthier and economically stronger. First, NORA also has the Growing Green program, which was launched in May and aims “to engage in general greening and urban agriculture projects,” according to its website. NORA is also hosting the Lots of Progress competition, in which it partnered with social-entrepreneurship group Propeller to host an idea pitch competition for 15 specific vacant lots.

Louisiana Legislature ends with passage of public health policies
Bills and resolutions focusing on nutrition, physical activity and other prevention-based strategies garnered political support in Louisiana this spring. The 2014 Regular Legislative Session, which ran from March to June, led to the passage of several pieces of legislation aimed at improving the health of Louisiana residents and building environments that promote healthy lifestyles. The following is a summary of some legislation, including the author, focused on these goals.

Healthy State Buildings and Statewide Planning:
  • Act 546 (Hoffman) prohibits individuals from smoking cigars, cigarettes, pipes or other lighted smoking devices within 25 feet of entrances to state office buildings.
  • Act 580 (Heitmeier) creates the Louisiana Obesity Prevention and Management Commission, a statewide task force to coordinate obesity programs and policies and develop statewide plans for obesity prevention. The commission is slated to have its first meeting in August. SCR 21 (Heitmeier) creates a joint-legislative obesity prevention committee comprised of House and Senate members.
  • Act 681 (Heitmeier) requires the state to install 10 additional (total of 20) lactation rooms in state office buildings by July 2016. The lactation rooms must provide suitable accommodations for mothers to express breast milk.
School-Based Health and Safety:
  • Act 410 (Thompson) prohibits drivers from using cell phones in school zones during posted hours.
  • Act 450 (Nevers) establishes the Agricultural Education Commission to guide agriculture activities in public schools, as well as design and pilot an education immersion program to prepare students for future careers and leadership roles in the field of agriculture.
  • Act 581 (Heitmeier) prohibits smoking within 200 feet of public and private school property.
  • SCR 94 (Heitmeier) encourages the state’s Department of Agriculture and Forestry and Department of Education to start a statewide farm-to-school program and study barriers to implementing such programs.
  • SCR 95 (Heitmeier) requests the Louisiana Department of Education to conduct a survey on the barriers that prevent schools and communities from implementing joint-use agreements, which allow for shared access to property outside of traditional school hours for physical activity opportunities.
  • HCR 114 (Williams) encourages the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to adopt a rule requiring schools to provide students with a lunch period of at least 20 minutes. This time should not include travel time to and from the cafeteria or the time it takes to wait in the school lunch line.

The Tulane PRC served as a resource for information to the Louisiana legislature during the 2014 legislative session by sharing research on ways to improve public health and the state’s rankings in the United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings. The PRC researched evidence-based strategies that have been shown to increase healthy behaviors, such as healthy eating, physical activity and tobacco cessation. Based on the PRC’s findings, state Sen. David Heitmeier of New Orleans proposed ten pieces of legislation, including several mentioned above, in order to raise awareness of obesity and smoking in Louisiana and to promote health where Louisianians live, work, learn and play.

Topics:   community health , policy , food environment , built environment , early childhood health , school food , agriculture , nutrition , diet , physical activity

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