If a Humana community health initiative goes as planned, five years from now residents of New Orleans and Baton Rouge will be enjoying much-improved physical and mental health and higher productivity at work.

“The goal of the Bold Moves market initiative is to improve the health of the communities 20 percent by 2020,” said Dr. Laura Trunk, Humana Louisiana chief medical officer.

Humana will bring together health care providers, community, education and political leaders, and representatives of nonprofits to discuss the challenges that residents of each city face to achieving their best health. The discussions launched last week in New Orleans and are set to begin in September in Baton Rouge. Over the next five weeks or so, Humana plans to meet with around 25 community groups, providers, business leaders and consumer focus groups.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is helping with the initial assessment.

The Louisiana cities are among the first half-dozen or so sites for the program. Humana provides coverage for more than 300,000 members in Louisiana. Of its 600 Louisiana employees, 400 are based in New Orleans. Humana felt it had an understanding of some of the health issues faced by members, said company spokesman Mitch Lubitz.

Trunk said Humana will use the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s measurement of “healthy days” to assess the improvements. The measure allows people to rate their health through four questions. For example, one question asks how many days the person’s physical health was not good during the past 30 days.

Self-assessed health status has been proven to be a more powerful predictor of mortality and morbidity than many clinical measures, according to Humana.

Trunk said improving community health means lower health care costs for consumers and their employers, which equates to higher rates of “presenteeism” and productivity.

“So I think (the benefits) are twofold. People are more engaged in their community when they’re healthier and when it’s easier to maintain their health,” Trunk said. “They’re also, from a productivity standpoint … they’re more likely to be at work and doing well.”

However, the entire community has to be involved to achieve those improvements in health, Trunk said. So it’s important that community leaders and members put together a plan of action.

Each community is different and tailors its recommendations to its residents.

Humana launched the program in San Antonio a year or so ago.

The program in San Antonio resulted in a partnership between Humana and H-E-B grocery stores to remove some of the barriers preventing consumers from eating well, including cost, convenience and culture.

Humana hosted lunch-and-learns and store tours, led H-E-B’s registered dietitians to teach employees how to prepare healthy, family-friendly recipes, and provided information on making better nutritional decisions, Lubitz said. Humana also provided a recipe guide, which included two weeks of family-friendly recipes, shopping lists and H-E-B coupons.

Humana is working with H-E-B to design additional programs to improve the health of the community, he said.