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|Livingwell Foundation awards grants|
Livingwell Foundation awarded 15 grants totaling $655,568 to local organizations for their efforts to help improve prenatal infant care in the eight-parish region.
The foundation announced its first round of grants Friday at its annual luncheon to update the community about the foundation's work. The luncheon was held at West Monroe Convention Center.
Livingwell Foundation was formed following the sale of Glenwood Regional Medical Center to IASIS Healthcare in 2007. The net proceeds from the sale, roughly $44 million, were set aside for Hospital Service District No. 1, which owned Glenwood when the hospital was sold to IASIS. Livingwell Foundation was established to administer the money the sale of Glenwood yielded.
The foundation's funds are public funds. Strict guidelines exist per state law, which outline how those funds can be invested. The foundation chose to only use the annual income earned off the $44 million endowment to fund healthcare initiatives in the eight parishes it serves.
Earlier this year, the foundation completed a community needs assessment to determine what health issues most impacted people in the eight-parish region.
Heart disease was ranked as the leading health concern among the participants. It was estimated that heart disease is the leading cause of death in northeast Louisiana, with 26.5 percent of people dying from the condition.
Cancer was ranked as the second most serious health concern, with 21.7 percent of residents dying from the disease.
Diabetes was third, and stroke was fourth in terms of conditions that cause death in northeast Louisiana.
The foundation hopes to fund initiatives that work to reduce those health concerns. The group also wants to fund initiatives to help improve local children's health.
Top priorities for children include addressing the growing rate of childhood obesity and getting children to eat healthier and stay active.
"We're seeing children with diabetes, and children who are obese," said West Monroe Mayor Dave Norris, who serves as chairman of Livingwell Foundation. Norris played an instrumental role in the sale of Glenwood to IASIS.
Local school-based health clinics are another tool the foundation has embraced to improve children's health.
The foundation helps fund school-based health clinics at Riser School and West Monroe High School.
The foundation also plans to partner with St. Francis Medical Center and the Ouachita Parish School System to create clinics at Richwood High School and Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary.
According to Wendy Cranford, director of the Riser clinic, students visited the clinic at Riser 4,338 times last year.
At Riser School, absenteeism has dropped 42 percent since the clinic first opened in 2002, Norris said.
"If kids are not in school, they can't learn," Norris explained. "And, if kids have to go home, their parents have to leave work. So, it's a real economic incentive to have school-based health clinics."
"Riser has been outstandingly successful," Norris added.
Another project that should begin in early 2009 is a virtual clinic which would help provide medical treatment for the working uninsured.
The virtual clinic concept is a partnership between the foundation and local doctors, including dentists, who are willing to donate a certain number of appointments during the year to treat the working uninsured.
Livingwell Foundation member Susan Hoffmann said some working people have to make a choice on whether to pay for health insurance or buy groceries and pay utility bills.
"That's a choice many people have to make," she said. "If you are an employed person who doesn't have health insurance, up until now, you probably would go to Conway for an ear infection and sit in the emergency room maybe five hours. If you're employed, your employer is expecting you to be at work, so not only are you not there because you're sick, but when you go, you are out for a day because that's the way the system works."
The virtual clinic concept has been embraced by the local medical and dental associations, which Hoffmann said will be the driving force for this program.
Physicians and dentists will decide how many patients they want to treat during the year through the program.
Organizations that accepted grants Friday were Northeast Louisiana Health Education Center, ARCO, Children's Coalition of Northeast Louisiana, ULM, Morehouse General Hospital, Primary Health Services Center and Volunteers of America.