The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, under the Direction of Secretary Kathy Kliebert, has inaugurated a program to enlist and encourage healthy initiatives among diverse prospective partners. The justification for such a move comes from a sincere desire to improve the health outcomes of our citizens and the health statistics for Louisiana, which currently ranks 48/50 among states (America’s Health Rankings 2014).
Louisiana ranks particularly low for smoking, obesity, infant mortality, sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV/AIDS), premature deaths and preventable hospitalizations, making health outcomes improvement a critical issue for the state. Real people suffer from real, preventable diseases, and collaborative approaches to health initiatives prove the most successful.
So what is Well-Ahead? Well-Ahead hopes to encourage the development of many Well Spots, scattered throughout the state. Different entities, whether they are individuals, childcare centers, schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, restaurants, or other worksites and businesses, must each satisfy a specific number of criteria to achieve the Well Spot designation. These criteria vary from entity to entity, but all must be tobacco-free (not just smoke-free). Most other entities must also be “Breastfeeding Friendly” and adhere to the 5-2-1-0 program (5 fruits and vegetables, less than 2 hours screen time, 1 hour of physical activity and 0 sweetened beverages per day).
Other criteria for institutions include completion of the 7 steps of the Louisiana Business Group on Health toolkit, healthy vending choices and administrative buy-in for the Well Spot initiative. Birthing hospitals must be designated as GIFT hospitals (related to aggressive plans to promote breast feeding), or “Baby Friendly,” a more stringent program with the same goal. Restaurants need to not only offer healthy food choices (including Kids LiveWell Program suggestions), but also have ServSafe trained food and beverage handlers, all in a tobacco-free environment.
When entities achieve their Well Spot designation, they will be acknowledged and celebrated both regionally and statewide. Depending on the number of criteria met, an entity is designated as achieving Level Three, Two or One (the highest). While such recognition provides a certain incentive, the real motivation will be a progressive increase in Louisiana’s health rankings.
By enlisting the help and cooperation of non-governmental groups, health should become the focus of not just a few healthcare-related professionals, but of the society as a whole. The real beneficiaries of such an improvement, so important to public health professionals, are the citizens of Louisiana who will individually (and collectively) lead longer and healthier lives.
For more information, please consult www.dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/page/1833/n/394.