Jindal administration launches health, wellness initiative

The Jindal administration embarked on a statewide initiative Monday, encouraging schools, businesses and other entities to promote health and wellness.

Gov. Bobby Jindal announced the start of “Well-Ahead Louisiana” at Baton Rouge’s Dufrocq Elementary School, which already is pushing healthy eating and exercise.

The program is being promoted as a way to bring healthy living practices to Louisiana residents wherever they go.

Those participating entities that meet certain state-established criteria would be recognized as “well spots.” Participation is voluntary.

“It’s about improving the quality of life for all our people,” Jindal said.

State health agency officials and leaders in the restaurant, health care and business communities joined Jindal.

Healthy living criteria include breastfeeding-friendly policies, tobacco-free environments, consistent healthy food offerings and employee wellness programs.

“All of us can make improvements in our lifestyle choices,” Jindal said.

Louisiana consistently has poor health rankings, placing near the bottom or at the bottom compared to other states.

Becoming healthier will improve people’s lives and reduce health care costs, Jindal said. Last year, Jindal said the state spent $28 billion on the treatment and economic costs of primary chronic diseases stemming from such things as obesity and diabetes.

State health chief Kathy Kliebert said “well spots” must be tobacco free. “Being well means not only taking care of ourselves but helping those around us,” she said.

Dufrocq already has gotten off to a good start offering healthy food, creating an “edible plant” garden on school grounds and promoting physical activity.

Participating restaurants would offer healthy meal choices and options for those with special diets, Kliebert said. Businesses could move to healthy options for snacks in vending machines, she said.

Entities can promote smoking cessation, posting a hotline for those who may need help to quit, she said.

Woman’s Hospital CEO Teri Fontenot said Louisiana’s hospitals are on-board. She said Woman’s has been a smoke-free campus for more than a decade. “We have done a lot of work in our cafeteria and offerings for our patients” so people will eat healthier, she said. In addition, the hospital has a walking path along its lake, she said.

RoyOMartin executive Ray Peters said the corporation started a wellness program about 13 years ago with an occupational health nurse.

He said 73 percent of the company’s employees voluntarily participate in on-site wellness programming. In addition, the firm has opened a clinic for employees and family members, Peters said.

“A healthy employee is a more productive employee,” he said.

Louisiana Restaurant Association CEO Stan Harris encouraged all its member restaurants to participate.