Central Louisiana is really showing the way for towns and cities all over the state to be healthier and, boy, is LHCC proud to be a part of these efforts with our mini-grants!
Health experts and elected officials often operate on different tracks when it comes to solving problems. However, research shows that when people and communities look at a problem in a more holistic way – meaning understanding that things are interconnected and that it's better to look and treat something as a whole – we can come up with a real and lasting "fix."
And that's not some new age nonsense. Think: what good does it do if a doctor fixes a broken toe, but ignores the fact that the person's heart is in such bad shape, they can't walk anyway? Take it further, and ask yourself what good does it do to perform heart surgery on the same person, if that person works in smoky environment or continues to eat too much, putting their heart right back in danger?
The better way to fix a problem is to look at the whole and start at the beginning – like making sure that person can work in a place that's smoke-free or helping that him or her change their diet by having affordable fruits and veggies around. When we do these things, especially on a policy, systems and environmental level (PSE), we get "fixes" that actually work – often at much less cost! What's more, we know if we make the healthy choice, an easy choice, people are much more likely to do it.
So what does all this have to do with DeRidder, Jena, Olla, Tullos and Urania? Everything! Town officials in these places have taken a big-picture look around and decided to apply for mini-grants to make some literal environmental changes and improve their towns on a whole lot of levels. And while that may sound like a tall (or super expensive) order, it doesn't have to be. Our mini-grants are just that – mini. But small amounts of money put in the right place can be the change, or leverage change by attracting other partners to tackle bigger tasks.
And that's why we want the people in DeRidder to go check out West Park, where LHCC funds are opening up new physical activity options. We also are helping renovate a trail in Tullos' park, while at the same time funding improvements in Urania's Potty Tannehill Park. LHCC knows how important green spaces are to people, as they not only increase physical activity, but also bring people together, absorb groundwater (very important in a water-disaster-prone Louisiana), help combat climate change - and just make people happier!
Then there's the Olla Farmers Market, where LHCC funds are helping provide an outdoor classroom/kitchen, so that people could learn more about the healthy fruits and vegetables all around them and eat them up. That's a change that helps people be healthier, brings them together and boosts local agricultural businesses.
And in Jena, LHCC funds are being used to help increase foot traffic downtown, which not only increases people's physical activity, but also helps people meet and form a stronger community. And guess what? Research has shown that infrastructure improvements like these can increase real estate values. So while we can't promise that for Jena, we feel pretty certain that people there will like the changes.
Speaking of Jena, the LHCC mini-grant is part of a larger effort (leveraging!) that Jena's mayor, LaDawn Edwards, spoke on when she attended LHCC's Annual Summit earlier this year in Ruston. She said Jena's becoming a "busy, busy happening place" with things such as its Vision Trail in the town's park, where she said "there's always someone walking" and where they have created a space where parents can walk while their kids practice their sports. As for the downtown where the LHCC funds are directed, they'll be part of a multi-model project, totally remaking the Third Street Plaza and where she says "Parking will move to the center, and there will be bike and walking lanes and trees down the middle!"
We salute these forward-thinking officials for understanding that health isn't just about going to the doctor – because, basically, having to go to the doctor means that prevention has failed! So when these officials create a community where people can eat better, gather together and move more, they make a place where it's easier to be healthy and happy. LHCC is proud to be a part of it!