Statistics tell state to deal with crisis

An American Heart Association of Louisiana official in New Orleans said the state needs to begin tackling the root causes that are killing coronavirus victims. Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke are making citizens more susceptible to contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Ashley Hebert, government relations official with the association, in a letter to The Advocate, said the state Department of Health estimated 97 percent of people killed by the disease in Louisiana had those underlying conditions. Diabetes figured in 38 percent of the deaths, high blood pressure in 60 percent, and chronic kidney disease in 23 percent and cardiac disease in 21 percent.

Hebert said there is also a health crisis in children because 32 percent are overweight and 17 percent have obesity, both increasing their risks for chronic diseases. The association supports multiple approaches to help children grow up healthy, including policies designed to improve access to affordable, nutritious foods and beverages.

State Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, has filed a bill, she said, that accomplishes that goal. It sets a healthy beverage (water, milk, 100 percent fruit juice) as the automatic option with kids’ meals, but allows parents the flexibility to request a sugary drink.

Children consume more than 30 gallons of sugary drinks every year, Hebert said, and that is associated with increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Both are conditions that lower the body’s immunity to fighting diseases like COVID-19.

Hebert said people who are black or Latino are less likely to have access to healthy beverages, are more inclined to consume sugary beverages and are at higher risk for preventable chronic diseases. She added that lower-income and minority neighborhoods have more fast-food restaurants and families consume more calories at restaurants.

Although the state’s experience with COVID-19 is improving, the statistics make it clear the death rate is still too high. A chart published Friday by The Advocate shows there are five parishes among the 25 nationwide with a high death rate per 100,000 people.

St. John the Baptist Parish has a death rate of 145.9 per 100,000, Orleans Parish with a rate of 100.3, Iberville Parish with a rate of 76.4, Jefferson Parish with a rate of 74.4 and St. Charles Parish with a rate of 64.3. Bronx, N.Y., is in first place with a rate of 166.7 per 100,000.

The numbers tell Louisiana citizens it is definitely too early to let down their guard, and they need to start dealing with troublesome health issuesmedical stock