Although it is not so far geographically, the distance from New Orleans to fellow Louisiana metropolises like Oak Grove may seem great in many ways. But the battle of the waistline is something that is all too commonplace in Louisiana, and the skirmishes are being won and lost in one of the nation’s fattest states every day.
Especially for children, whether in urban neighborhoods of the Crescent City or the small towns of the Mississippi Delta, the problem of obesity is racking up some real adult costs every day.
The weight problem is advancing chronic diseases that cost taxpayers long into the future, Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture, told the Press Club of Baton Rouge. “Everybody in this room, we are going to pay for that one day,” he said of chronic obesity.
LSU is targeting prevention strategies in West Carroll Parish and recently received a $1.25 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work with other delta parishes, including Madison, St. Helena and Tensas.
With partners from the LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center and Southern University’s Agricultural Center, the LSU initiative is one bit of good news on the bulge front. But in New Orleans, there also is some good news.
As Richardson said, healthy eating is key. “A lot of times, it’s not a calorie issue but a quality issue,” he said of the LSU initiative’s communities.
In New Orleans, local government is working on combating youth obesity in schools and in the wider community.
The United States Conference of Mayors and the American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America awarded the city a $150,000 grant to support the city Health Department’s Fit NOLA initiative. Twelve schools were recognized and will get grants to help kids to eat better and be more physically active.
“Obesity is a growing public health crisis in New Orleans — especially among children,” said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “We are working every day to create an environment that supports physical activity.”
The city facilitated the new public market at the renovated Myrtle Banks Elementary School at 1307 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. in Central City. Landrieu said it is important to give families healthier options.
East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden has advanced similar goals through the HealthyBR initiative, a communitywide effort to promote better diet and exercise.
Richardson is right to point out the challenges that communities large or small face with a generation of young people getting larger all the time.
The long-term costs are staggering. We encourage government at every level, whether in city or country, to look at ways to promote healthier diets and lifestyles for the young.
Lower medical costs later will repay these investments a thousandfold.