Calcasieu Parish police jurors on Thursday approved using money from the parish’s Health Unit Fund to fund a coordinator for the Partnership for a Healthier Southwest Louisiana.
The decision includes a partnership with the parish and the Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center, a nonprofit organization. Parish Administrator Bryan Beam said the $45,000 funding for the position is set for one year and that the Health Education Center would make the decision of hiring the coordinator and providing the job description.
The partnership was formed in July 2011 by “like-minded people who are concerned,” co-chairperson Annette Ballard said.
“We have an epidemic of obesity in Louisiana and especially in Southwest Louisiana,” Ballard said.
Thus far, the organization has been aided only by volunteers, but “we’re taking the step to the next level,” Ballard said.
Bootsie Durant, with the Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center, said the partnership is also reaching out to other local entities and organizations as it seeks a total of $75,000. The $45,000 from the Police Jury would cover the cost of a coordinator, and the other $30,000 would cover operating costs.
In April, Dr. B.J. Foch with the state Office of Public Health told police jurors that Lake Charles and Calcasieu Parish have higher obesity rates that the state and national averages and that its residents are less active and eat less healthfully.
The Office of Public Health is not tied to the partnership, but “we’ll be involved,” Foch said.
“We’re just supportive of the initiative,” he said.
The SWLA Health Education Center was recently awarded a $740,000 grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation of Louisiana. The grant money will be awarded over three years for the center to promote healthy living within the region.
The Partnership for a Healthier Southwest Louisiana includes about 60 public and private groups, including the parish, the city of Lake Charles, Christus St. Patrick Hospital and Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.Online: www.swlahec.com.