Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Louisiana Wellness Programs are Slow to Take Off

"Mardi Gras", an ancient custom that originated in southern Europe, is celebrated annually in New Orleans, Louisiana. It celebrates food and fun just before the 40 days of Lent which explains why the literal meaning of Mardi Gras translates to “Fat Tuesday”. While food and fun sounds great, Louisiana has a ways to go in terms of overall state health. With the 8th highest obesity rate in the nation, Louisiana suffers from many of the same issues that are present throughout the south. Heavy southern food combined with a serious lack of physical activity adds up to a large number of extremely unhealthy people.

If the numbers suggest anything, they indicate that authority figures in the South (such as governors, mayors, congressmen, etc.) would be wise to promote healthy living to ensure the future wellbeing of southern residents. Lighten Up Louisiana (LUL) is a creative state-wide initiative aimed at helping Louisiana’s residents get active and lose weight. LUL is an exercise-based nutritional challenge that encourages Louisianans to develop healthy activity and eating habits. Louisianans can form teams and engage in friendly competition or sign up as individuals. Either way, the program encourages residents of Louisiana to have fun while participating in regular physical activity.

In terms of employee health, there seems to be several budding wellness programs. A handful of Louisiana officials have begun to test the idea of low-budget wellness programs as a starting point for more comprehensive employee wellness programs in the future. Research suggests that even with low-budget programs, some level of increased wellness behaviors occur simply because wellness issues are highlighted and promoted in the workplace.

Although Mardi Gras provides a fun, festive release for thousands of fun-loving Americans, it’s important to recognize that “fun” doesn’t need to center around alcohol and fatty foods. For example, biking, hiking, and canoeing with friends are all fun ways to stay active and maintain general wellbeing. Louisiana is definitely headed in the right direction but could definitely benefit from a more hands-on approach to health by its legislators and state leaders.

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