Assessing community health needs and developing the appropriate plans to address these needs are essential to improving and sustaining the health of our communities. To do so, we must understand our community, the needs identified and the process for moving forward to improve the health of Baton Rouge. Both a primary and shared focus among healthcare organizations is responding to the health needs of our communities. More recently, we are encouraged to develop initiatives that incorporate multiple healthcare organizations to collaborate with available and upcoming resources to offer effective and positive impacts on the community. And more specifically, the concept of a Community Health Needs Assessment is now reinforced by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which contains new requirements for tax-exempt hospitals to conduct community health needs assessments and to adopt implementation strategies to meet the health needs identified through the assessments.
In May 2008, Baton Rouge Mayor-President Melvin L. "Kip" Holden commissioned the Mayor's Healthy City Initiative to encourage Baton Rouge residents to adopt a healthier and more active lifestyle. The mayor envisioned a program that would promote and identify resources available in the community for residents to fight chronic diseases and childhood obesity.
In Louisiana, almost half of our children are considered overweight or obese, putting them at a much greater risk for obesity-related health problems like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and asthma. Nationwide the number of children who are considered overweight or obese has nearly tripled over the past 30 years.
To tackle this problem, the mayor subdivided the initiative into three separate but compatible parts: Healthy BR – a focus on healthier eating and a more active lifestyle; Med BR – a focus on access to care and health outcomes; and the Health Innovation Center – a focus on community efforts to address childhood obesity. Each subgroup engages a variety of partner organizations in a cooperative effort between local and state governments, area hospitals and local health organizations.
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