Reports and Research


Healthy Communities initiatives across the state are making policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) changes to address health disparities, combat obesity, and improve overall health in Louisiana. These reports provide a look into how Healthy Communities is impacting parishes across Louisiana.

In 2018, the LSU AgCenter entered into a 5-year cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address the nutrition and physical activity environments in six rural Louisiana parishes with some of the highest obesity rates in the state: Assumption, St. Helena, Tensas, Madison, Morehouse, and East Carroll. These asset maps identify and provide information about each community's assets including resources, knowledge, and skills.

Assumption Parish Asset Map 2020

East Carroll Parish Asset Map 2020

Madison Parish Asset Map 2020

Morehouse Parish Asset Map 2020

St. Helena Parish Asset Map 2020

Tensas Parish Asset Map 2020

The Food Systems Assessment below identifies the needs and assets of the food systems in six rural Louisiana parishes: Assumption, East Carroll, Madison, Morehouse, St. Helena, and Tensas. The key recommendations document summarizes the assessment's findings and provides recommendations and resources for next steps.

Food Systems Assessment Report

Food System Key Recommendations

In August 2020, LSU AgCenter Healthy Communities assessed the physical activity environment in six rural Louisiana parishes with an obesity rate over 40%: Assumption, St. Helena, Tensas, Madison, Morehouse, and East Carroll. These RALA report cards provide a snapshot of the "friendliness" of each community for walking, biking, and playing based on data collected from 2019 to 2020. The goal of the audit was to identify strengths and areas for improvement in each community. This assessment was made possible with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1809 High Obesity Program (HOP).

Read the report cards here!

The St. Helena Farmers Market connects low-income families to local farmers through a SNAP match program, which offers $3 in free tokens for every $1 spent on fresh fruits and vegetables using SNAP/EBT benefits. Read more about the SNAP Match program here or view the infographic and video below!

St. Helena SNAP Match Infographic 2020-2021

The Healthy Young People Empowerment (HYPE) Project is a curriculum-based program developed by the South Carolina Eat Smart Move More Coalition that teaches youth to become advocates for change, develop leadership skills, partner with adults, and address health disparities in their communities. HYPE activities focus on the policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) change process. Read about Louisiana HYPE coalitions below!

Madison Parish (MADHYPE)

East Carroll Parish (East Carroll HYPE)

St. Helena Parish (St. Helena HYPE)

Healthy Communities does more than educate. We focus on making the healthy choice the easy choice by implementing sustainable, community-driven changes in each unique community. Whether it's addressing affordable access to healthy foods or improving physical activity environments, our local coalitions prioritize solutions that fit best for them. In this article, LSU's Office of Research and Economic Development highlights how Healthy Communities provides more than knowledge.

Read the article here!

Residents of rural areas often lack access to healthy, affordable foods and face higher rates of nutrition-related chronic diseases. A three-year long study conducted by the LSU AgCenter in three rural parishes (St. Helena, Madison, and Tensas) focused on PSE interventions at supermarkets. Researchers worked closely with food store managers to provide retail marketing assistance and guidance related to stocking and displaying healthier food choices. Read about the results and plans for the future by clicking the link below.

Read the full article here!

The Louisiana Healthy Communities 2018 Program Report contains information on obesity in Louisiana, CDC High Obesity Program (HOP) target parishes, primary partnerships, our top priorities and our accomplishments.

Read the 2018 Healthy Communities Report here!


As part of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, the LSU AgCenter Healthy Communities program works with extension agents and educators to bring the latest research-based information to communities across the state. Below you will find recent research from the LSU AgCenter related to Healthy Communities and PSE work in Louisiana.

Authors: Bailey Houghtaling, Melissa Cater, De'Jerra Bryant, Allie Brooks, Denise Holston

This study examined the healthy food options in stores that accept SNAP/EBT (formerly known as food stamps). The results demonstrate a need to improve healthy food options in SNAP-authorized stores in Louisiana and suggest that healthy food retail interventions should be prioritized by Cooperative Extension Services.

View the infographic here!

Read the full article here!

Author: Katherine Seals, Makenzie Miller, Jamila Freightman, Denise Holston

This study evaluated the implementation of a SNAP match program at a rural farmers in Louisiana during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study found that the match program increased the market's geographic reach and customer base (+131.42%) and expanded access to fresh produce during the public health crisis.

Read the abstract here!

View the poster here!

Authors: Jessica Stroope, Matt Greene, Katherine Seals, Denise Holston

This study looked at the strategies used to gather community input and prioritize interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The results indicate that Qualtrics surveys were an effective tool to gather input and allowed wider participation than virtual meetings, especially in lower-income, rural communities.

Read the abstract here!

View the poster here!

Authors: Denise Holston, Jessica Stroope, Matthew Green and Bailey Houghtaling

LSU AgCenter researchers held focus group discussions to better understand experiences of food access among mostly Black residents in rural Louisiana. The study found that low-income and majority Black rural residents in Louisiana do not have adequate access to food in their community and experience challenges getting food in and outside their community. Food insecurity, transportation, prices, store choice, and SNAP/WIC benefits emerged as major themes during the focus groups. Researchers suggest fixing water issues, increasing food retail competition, improving public transportation, and providing more job opportunities as potential solutions to existing food access challenges.

Read the full article here!

View the infographic here!

Authors: Matt Greene, Bailey Houghtaling, Denise Holston

The purpose of this study was to investigate whether Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Education (SNAP-Ed) is meeting the needs of Black participants. The study found that most outcomes (aside from fruit juice, low fat milk, and whole grain pasta consumption) were not significantly different between Black and white participants.

Read the abstract here!

View the poster here!

Authors: Denise Holston, Matt Green

A cross-sectional study assessed potential SNAP-Ed participants' attitudes toward COVID-19 mitigation behaviors and virtual nutrition education preferences. The study found significant differences between Black participants and white participants.

Read the abstract here!

Authors: Matt Greene, Andrew Garcia, William Lee, Denise Holston

This study was a process evaluation of direct education and PSE change work by the LSU AgCenter SNAP-Ed program using Microsoft Dynamics 365. The study found that Microsoft Dynamics 365 was easily adapted to the program's needs.

Read the full abstract here!

View the poster here!

Authors: Matt Greene, Denise Holston, Jessica Stroope, Jamila Freightman, Joy Sims

A Healthy Communities forum in Tallulah, the parish seat of Madison Parish, identified unsafe, unusable walking trails and sidewalks and lack of fitness facilities as barriers to physical activity. In response, the local Healthy Communities coalition focused on revitalizing the unused Fairgrounds Park, known locally as the Slab. Following the revitalization, adults reported a perceived reduction in crime at the park. However, youth reported ongoing concerns about crime and gun violence in the area, and all adult interviewees expressed they would not feel safe exercising in the area.

Read the research brief here!

Authors: Denise Holston, Jessica Stroope, Melissa Cater

LSU AgCenter researchers held focus group discussions with Cooperative Extension Service (CES) Family and Consumer Science (FCS) agents to identify perceived barriers and facilitators to better implementing community-based obesity prevention approaches. Results indicate that knowledge of the socio-ecological model, beliefs about roles of CES, funding, human resources, community connectedness, community buy-in, guidance, and internal support play an essential role in implementation efforts.

Read the full article here!

Authors: Denise Holston, Jessica Stroope, Melissa Cater, Michelle Kendall, Stephanie Broyles

This article provides an overview of the LSU AgCenter's Healthy Communities program and outlines the policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) strategies implemented in 3 rural parishes with an obesity prevalence of 40% or higher.

Read the full article here!

Authors: Michelle Kendall, Stephanie T. Broyles, Jamila Freightman, Melissa Cater, Denise Holston

This study focused on the local food store environment in 3 Louisiana parishes with an obesity prevalence above 40%. Interventions focused on healthy food demonstrations, stocking guidelines and in-store marketing practices. Results showed that the interventions did not change customers' purchasing or dietary habits but did result in positive changes to the food store environments.

Read the full article here!

Authors: Bailey Houghtaling, Denise Holston, Courtney Szocs, Jerrod Penn, Danyi Qui, Valisa Hedrick

Have you ever grabbed a soda while waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store? The Policy and Environmental Responses For Health Equity Research Group reviewed sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) stocking and marketing practices in U.S. food stores and found that:

  • SSB were more prominent in larger stores like supermarkets.
  • Low income & racial minority communities were targeted more for SSB sales.
  • SSB were more prominent in southeastern US stores.

Read the full article here!

View the infographic here!

Authors: Denise Holston, Melissa Cater, Stephanie Broyles

This study assessed the nutrition environment in three rural Louisiana parishes with high poverty, obesity and chronic disease rates. The results showed that the nutrition environments in these communities present challenges for residents trying to adopt suggested preventative health behaviors. The authors recommend implementing PSE (policy, systems and environmental) strategies to improve nutrition environments in these parishes.

Read the abstract here!

Authors: Denise Holston, Matthew Greene, Jessica Stroope

This study explored the perceptions of food access and local food environments among residents with low-incomes in high-poverty, rural Louisiana parishes. The results indicate that several complex factors contribute to food insecurity in the selected parishes including price, transportation, and food availability. The authors suggest providing public transportation to affordable grocery stores as a possible solution to food insecurity in rural areas.

Read the abstract here!

Authors: Matthew Greene, Jessica Stroope, Denise Holston

This study used ripple effect mapping to identify the perceived impact of the Healthy Communities Initiative among members of communities with local coalitions. The results indicate that community members perceived improvements to the community's political capital, inequity awareness, fresh produce access, and organizational interconnectedness. The authors suggest continuing to encourage PSE changes through the Healthy Communities Initiative and utilizing ripple effect mapping to assess programmatic impacts.

Read the abstract here!

Authors: Matthew Greene, Jessica Stroope, Denise Holston

This study examined Cooperative Extension (CE) staff's perceptions of barriers and facilitators in the implementation of policy, systems and environmental (PSE) interventions. The results indicate that CE staff may find PSE work challenging when they have traditionally focused on direct education interventions. The authors suggest presenting PSE work as a priority and providing training and proper preparation for CE staff transitioning their intervention efforts away from direct education and toward PSE strategies.

Read the abstract here!

Authors: Linda Fergus, Richie Roberts, Denise Holston

The purpose of this study was to conduct formative research to determine optimal distribution channels and messaging for nutrition-related social marketing campaigns that target people with low-incomes living in rural Louisiana. The results indicate that messaging should address budgetary concerns, motivation for sustaining healthy behaviors and palatability of healthy foods. Additional research may be needed to clarify results regarding distribution channels. Research that further segments the population may benefit future social marketing campaigns targeting older youths.

Read the article here!

Authors: Linda Fergus, Katherine Seals, Denise Holston

This systematic literature review looked at effective nutrition interventions among retailers in low-income environments in both rural and urban settings. The results demonstrate that more research is necessary to determine the intervention needs of retailers in low-income rural settings.

Read the review article here!

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture