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Jindal: Wellness Initiative Could Increase State’s Economic Output

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Gov. Bobby Jindal today announced a state-sponsored wellness initiative he claims will save Louisiana money — while increasing its economic output — by making its citizens more healthy.

Jindal and Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert announced the “Well-Ahead Louisiana” initiative today in Baton Rouge.

“The program is a state-wide effort to partner with schools, businesses and other organizations in local communities to give Louisianians more control and ownership of their health,” read a Monday afternoon press release from Jindal’s office.

The program promotes guided programs to be voluntarily adopted in Louisiana’s schools, hospitals and workplaces — like tobacco-free and breastfeeding-friendly environments — that would qualify them as a “WellSpot” that meets the DHH’s criteria for wellness facilitation.

"The program is a state-wide effort to partner with schools, businesses and other organizations in local communities to give Louisianians more control and ownership of their health."

Businesses, for example, would have to create completely tobacco-free work environments and provide tobacco-cessation counseling in their health plans. They must provide a place (other than a bathroom stall) for breastfeeding mothers to pump milk.

For the state’s colleges and universities — which are already required to implement tobacco-free policies by August, according to a state law adopted last year — one WellSpot qualifier requires healthier vending machines.

University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley spoke in favor of the initiative, saying the universities in that system will partner with the DHH to implement the standards for its 90,000 students.

According to the state’s numbers:

$28 billion

The amount spent in 2013 on the treatment and economic costs of primary chronic diseases, like heart disease, obesity and diabetes

$17.3 billion

How much the DHH estimates it can save the state by reducing the economic costs of chronic conditions by decreasing chronic disease cases by 600,000

$62 billion

The amount that could be added to the state’s economic output by 2050 through “smart and healthy living”

A number of high-profile individuals voiced support of the initiative:

  • Public Health Assistant Secretary J.T. Lane
  • Stan Harris, president and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association
  • Teri Fontenot, Woman’s Hospital president and CEO
  • Ray Peters, vice president of human resources and marketing at forestry manufacturer RoyOMartin, where he says 73 percent of the company’s employees voluntarily participate in on-site wellness programs
  • Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk, associate executive director of Population and Public Health Services at Pennington Biomedical
  • State Sen. David Heitmeier, D-New Orleans

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