With the fall election season coming up, uncertainty is in the air. But, in Baton Rouge, regardless of who is mayor-president next year, one thing is certain. Healthy BR will still be in place.
Healthy BR is part of Mayor-President Kip Holden’s Healthy City Initiative he implemented after taking office. In 2005, Holden signed on to the National Healthy Cities Movement, and, in 2007, decided to form a more structured initiative with the help of then state Sen. Bill Cassidy and Coletta Barrett, vice-president of missions at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Barrett said.
Barrett, who is chair of the board for the Healthy City Initiative, said the initiative consists of three separate bodies: Healthy BR, comprising about 40 organizations in the area that look at healthy lifestyles, active living and healthier eating habits; Med BR, which focuses on healthcare and treatment; and the Innovation Center, where Pennington Biomedical Research Center, part of the Louisiana State University system, recommends programs based on the research it conducts.
“While he’s (Holden) very committed to it, this is something that needs to continue on beyond who the specific mayor is,” Barrett said adding that the initiative is a non-profit, which Holden proposed it become so the initiative could outlive his term in office.
The mayor-president’s community outreach coordinator, Sunanna Chand, said the Healthy City Initiative recently received a $1 million grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana that will help fund a new project called “Fresh Beginnings.” “A major component of the project is going to be to get a mobile (food) market up and running in 70805, 70802 and 70807 (zip codes),” Chand said. She explained that the market consists of the Red Stick Farmer’s Market in a food truck going to areas of the city that do
not have an abundance of healthy foods.
Chand says Healthy BR is also working with four north Baton Rouge schools to put in new physical education equipment and encourage more physical activity in the schools.
Barrett said the Healthy City Initiative facilitated a community health needs assessment in 2011, which is required for all non-profit hospitals under the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in 2010. The assessment recommended the city look at four major health concerns for Baton Rouge: obesity, mental and behavioral health, HIV and AIDS and over-utilization of emergency rooms for primary care.
Healthy BR will be showing up at several running local running groups in Baton Rouge, including Sunday Runday on September 30, Happy’s Running Club on September 25 and the Varsity Sports run group on September 27, to promote the launch of Healthy BR’s new website during that week on September 26.
“You’ll be able to find all kinds of data, statistics about the health of Baton Rouge, and it’s all very locally focused,” Chand said. Places to run and bike as well as information on various health screenings will be included on the site, Chand said.
To learn more , visit Healthy BR.