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ESPHL PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS

LOUISIANA
July 2014

Team Members:
J.T. Lane *
Caroline Brazeel
David Heitmeier
David McCay
Courtney Phillips
Avis Richard-Griffin
Beth Scalco
Tenney Sibley
Sheree Taillon
* Team Leader
For additional information, contact:
J.T. Lane, Assistant Secretary
Office of Public Health Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals
225/342-6188 jtlane@la.gov

States policies shape where we live, learn, work, and play, and impact the publics health. While there is evidence
for what works to improve populations health outcomes, many states lack robust partnerships capable of
mobilizing stakeholders, re-examining existing legal models, and innovating through statue and regulation. The
Excellence in State Public Health Law (ESPHL) program sought to strengthen the relationships among health
policy decision-makers in and among selected states and to increase the ability of these states to understand how
policy could improve the publics health. States determined their own priorities, and ESPHL did not predetermine states outcomes.

Louisianas Excellence in State Public Health Law (ESPHL)* team created a vision for improving the
healthy food options outside of the home as a vehicle for addressing Louisianas obesity epidemic.
Implementation of interventions designed by the Louisiana team focused on restaurants and vending
machines. The project accomplished two major goals: (1) increased statewide capacity to provide
healthy food options; and (2) improved food safety practices and awareness. Key implementation
highlights included the following strategies:

Governor Bobby Jindal and state health leaders launched the Well-Ahead Louisiana Initiative in April
2014, a statewide campaign to improve the health of Louisiana residents through a common
framework for place-based policy and program change. Healthy vending, food safety, and healthy
dining were featured as key program criteria.
Assistant Secretary for Public Health J.T. Lane, and Louisiana Restaurant Association President and
CEO Stan Harris, worked to create a strong partnership focused on leveraging resources to impact
health through Louisiana restaurants.
Health Promotion Director Caroline Brazeel collaborated with a community-based nutritionist in
Monroe, Louisiana, to provide local restaurant consultation on healthy menu changes related to
sodium, fat, and sugar reduction and nutritional education for restaurant staff to assist patrons in
making healthier dining selections. This approach is one we plan to learn from, fine-tune, and
ultimately expand to other regions of the state.
A survey was disseminated to all Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) Central Office staff to
gauge their ideas on current and future vending machine options. Key cohort members engaged
Randolph-Sheppard Act vendors to begin offering healthier vending options not just in DHH
buildings but in all state agencies, through the Well-Ahead Louisiana Initiative.
The Departments Communications team collaborated with the Louisiana ESPHL cohort to create a
coordinated promotional campaign for healthy vending and food safety.
The Office of Public Health Environmental Health Team procured and customized software to track
and document safety training and certification for both restaurants and DHH. This new software will
allow enhanced environmental health analytics related to food safety, and replace 22 previously
separate and siloed systems.
The Office of Public Health further enhanced the current public web site www.eatsafe.la.gov to
provide more information to restaurants, consumers, and health inspectors about food safety and
healthy dining.
Employee food safety certification requirements are being elevated from a Level B (non-critical) to a
Level A (critical) sanitary code violation.

The number of obese adults currently living in Louisiana is


greater than the combined population of the states three
largest cities: Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans.
More than 34 percent of Louisiana adults are obese. The
Louisiana ESPHL Team was unified in understanding the
integral role that our food culture plays in the states obesity
epidemic, but it was also equally unified in understanding
positive ways the public health system and partners could
impact the nutritional value of the food consumers choose.

Louisianas culture reflects how we spend


our time and why so many others visit our
state. Our health tells us how long we get
to enjoy our culture.
- J.T. Lane, Assistant Secretary for Public Health

ESPHL, a program of the Aspen Institute Justice & Society Program, was made possible by a grant from the Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation.

Louisiana built a team comprised solely of government employees working in their official capacities.
The team articulated its goals as increasing healthy food options and improving food safety practices
and awareness; the team accomplished its goals with the support, advice, and implementation of team
members and additional stakeholders. The team was informally divided into implementers, consultants,
and collaborators. Implementers were intermediate to mid-level DHH staff members. Consultants were
hired to carry out strategic components of the program design. Collaborators were identified to help the
team build solutions to address identified barriers.
The team project design resulted in several key outcomes:

There was a 10 percent increase in food safety


certifications issued during the project period.
The health departments effort to
Nearly 50 percent of the states administrative
increase healthy vending options is great.
regions are now covered with a local healthy dining
It is a good thing to try to help people eat
initiative, when state and existing local efforts are
better. We all need help to decide what is
combined.
healthy.
Ten new restaurants in Northeast Louisiana now
have healthy dining options with reduced sodium,
-Shirley McCorkle, Health Agency Vending Manager
trans fat, and sugar content.
A healthy vending initiative was established in the
DHH central office in Baton Rouge. According to a survey conducted by the Louisiana ESPHL
Team, 65 percent of DHH employees vending choice would be influenced if an item was labeled
as healthy.

Clarity of mission and vision were critical to accomplish the goals of the Louisiana ESPHL team. It allowed
independent execution of critical strategies supportive of the road map and goals of the project.
Collaboration, open negotiation, and clear communication with stakeholders and community partners
led to powerful outcomes related to shared agendas of health and safety.
The Louisiana Team is poised to expand on the successes of ESPHL by applying the lessons learned
above, but most important through greater integration into existing health promotion programs and
expanding our existing and growing list of partners across the state.