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|Foundation targets children's health|
Several members of the LivingWell Foundation's board of commissioners hope to use a good portion of the group's funding to pay for initiatives to help improve children's health.
Top priorities include addressing the growing rate of childhood obesity and getting children to eat healthier and stay active.
The foundation has $46.55 million in net assets. The foundation originally invested $44 million, which it received from the sale of Glenwood Regional Medical Center to IASIS Healthcare. That money rests in an interest-bearing account. Only the annual interest income earned from the account will be used for health care initiatives throughout the region.
For the next several weeks, the foundation's community planning advisory board will meet to determine what health-care initiatives it wants to support. The advisory board met Tuesday where it discussed how it could help provide programs to improve local children's health.
West Monroe Mayor Dave Norris, who serves as the foundation's chairman, said, "We need to try to address the problems with young people's diet and the habits they form and try to have a long-lasting impact. I think that's where we should start. I'd like to see a large part of the money go to things that benefit kids."
"Older people in the community are saying the same thing," Norris continued. "They say, 'Spend the money on the kids.'"
Obesity and diabetes have steadily increased in American children over the past several years.
Dr. Terry King, a pediatric interventional cardiologist from Monroe, said the foundation must focus on the family and convince parents and their children to choose healthier lifestyles.
"It's a social problem, and it's got to be a lifestyle change," he said.
Rev. James Smith agreed that obesity and diabetes are serious issues that are "destroying our school system."
"In our school system, diabetes is just killing us. I'm amazed at some of the illnesses these kids have today," Smith said.
A recent study commissioned by the foundation found that heart disease, cancer and diabetes are the leading causes of death in this region.
Death from diabetes is more prominent in northeast Louisiana compared to the United States as a whole, according to the study.
King and Smith agree the foundation could find a model already used by other health care professionals to address childhood obesity. Then, they can work to bring that model into the schools and possibly public health centers to reach as many people as possible.
Norris also suggested the foundation ask the Legislature to look into implementing a planning grant that would fund a mobile school-based health clinic to travel throughout the region. This mobile clinic could provide many of the services as the school-based health clinics currently located at Riser School and West Monroe High School.
King says he has talked with Rep. Frank Hoffmann about that same concept, and he believes there is great interest in proceeding with this idea.
In the meantime, the foundation over the next several months will continue to work on its community plan to address the problems found in the recent study as well as health concerns it wants to tackle such as childhood obesity.