National Rural Health Day Community Star Award

Valerie Vincent  |  11/15/2018 2:01:00 PM

The Bogalusa Mayor’s Wellness Councils Bogalusa Strong healthy communities program wins the National Rural Health Day Community Star Award. On the third Thursday of November every year, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) leads National Rural Health Day, an annual day of recognition for those who serve the health needs of nearly 60 million people residing in America’s rural communities, estimated to be 1 in 5 Americans.

Today, the Bogalusa Mayor’s Wellness Council is pleased to announce its receipt of the prestigious National Rural Health Day Community Star Award for its organization of a multisector community coalition, Bogalusa Strong.Bogalusa Strong has made extraordinary contributions to rural health in the community.

“We are honored to receive the National Rural Health Day Community Star Award,” said Wendy Perrette, Mayor of Bogalusa.“Bogalusa Strong has restored hope, health and happiness to our community, and that’s the #PowerofRural.”

Great minds think alike, and when they align to reach a common goal, amazing things come of their efforts, which is what’s happening in Bogalusa, a small community in Washington Parish, Louisiana. The Mayor of Bogalusa, Wendy Perrette, the Assistant Vice President of Mission Integration for Our Lady of Angels Hospital, Derek Covert, and FCS Regional Coordinator for the LSU AgCenter, Valerie Vincent, found that each organization was working to improve the declining health statistics of the community they love; and for a good reason. As their 2018 Community Star nominator noted: “While Louisiana is known for its great food, music, and festivals, we are unfortunately also known for our unhealthy lifestyle choices that cause our residents to lead the nation in obesity, diabetes and heart disease.” Add to these, Washington Parish ranked 60th out of 64 parishes in the state in health outcomes. Together, the three organizations joined forces and began working with Taffy Morrison, Community Coach at Well-Ahead Louisiana.With the four organizations united, the Bogalusa Mayor’s Wellness Council officially launched and on its heels, additional community stakeholders were invited to join including the City Parks and Recreation Director, the Bogalusa City Schools Superintendent, City Council members, the Office of Public Health Regional Medical Director, as well as local business, residents and faith-based organizations.

The Bogalusa Mayor’s Wellness Council formed to improve the quality of life of residents.This mission integrates well with the LSU AgCenter, Our Lady of Angels Hospital and Well-Ahead Louisiana.The LSU AgCenter’s healthy communities program includes community-wide outreach to increase healthy behaviors and engage with and support healthy community workgroups that support healthy food consumption and increased physical activity.While, Our Lady of the Angels Hospital is addressing the health and wellness needs of the community as they offer ways to help overcome the barriers that prevent people from living a healthier life. Bringing these areas together, Well-Ahead Louisiana fosters a community-based network that promotes health in all places and spaces, connecting organizations to the resources that will make healthy living easily accessible to each and every person.

The organizations have been working together strategically planning and assessing the needs of the community for nearly two years and have used the social ecological model to target the interaction of multiple levels of sectors of influence within the community. After much planning and assessment they hosted the first Healthier Bogalusa Community Forum.On March 22, 2018 over seventy residents and stakeholders attended the forum to express their concerns about what they felt would be the easiest areas ti implement in Bogalusa including: increasing awareness of community-wide events, increasing the involvement of the faith-based community, providing increased health education for adults and youth, open a detox and rehab center in the city, increase community collaborations and add public transportation options.The Bogalusa Mayor’s Wellness Councils program recognized that community partnerships would be vital to addressing the residents’ concerns. From this the Bogalusa Strong healthy community coalition program was formed. On May 29, 2018, the first Bogalusa Strong meeting convened, and 54 motivated community champions began their massive collaborative efforts. In under a year since the forum publically kicked off the initiative, the transformation of Bogalusa is evident. A few of their numerous early successes include a citywide tobacco cessation campaign, hosting a national walkability expert and holding a walk-audit, hosting of a “Smarter Lunchroom” workshop for Bogalusa school cafeteria staff, providing community wide nutrition education, the establishment of a bi-annual Mayor’s walk, increasing awareness for local healthcare options and increasing opportunities for physical activity by adding painted playground stencils throughout the city.

“The LSU AgCenter is excited to be recognized for our role in the Bogalusa Mayor’s Wellness Councils Bogalusa Strong healthy communities program. This program engages the community at all levels, we have tackled elements of the policy, system and environment model to work towards creating a heathier community where all people thrive. We are honored to be recognized as one of the community partners in this program and our hope is that these changes will improve physical activity and nutrition, reduce obesity, and prevent and control chronic diseases among residents” stated Valerie Vincent, the FCS Regional Coordinator.

Bogalusa’s leaders are proving that the past need not define the future, and believe that someday soon, their community will be known as one of the healthiest communities in the United States.

Other Community Star Awards in Louisiana include Dr. Roland Degeyter and Allen Parish Hospital.All awardees will be featured the 2018 edition of the National Rural Health Day Community Stars book, available on www.PowerofRural.org.

For more information on Louisiana’s 2018 Community Stars, visit www.PowerofRural.org.

About the National Organization of State Office of Rural Health:

The National Organization of State Office of Rural Health is the membership association of the nation’s 50 State Offices of Rural Health. State Offices of Rural Health are anchors of information and support for rural communities, health professionals, hospitals and clinics across the nation. They are dedicated to collaboration, education, communication and innovation to improve health in small towns around the country.

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