Local group wins national award

Published 4:45 am Saturday, November 17, 2018

Every year, on the third Thursday of November, 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 one in five Americans.

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 multi-sector 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,” Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette said. “Bogalusa Strong is giving citizens purpose and a greater meaning to life. It is restoring hope, health and happiness to our community, and that’s the #PowerofRural.”

Washington Parish ranks 60th out of 64 parishes for health outcomes in Louisiana. The Mayor of Bogalusa, Our Lady of Angels Hospital, and the LSU AgCenter found that each organization was working independently to improve the declining health statistics of Bogalusa. Together, the three organizations joined forces and began their search for additional collaborators to help them formulate a strategic action plan. Taffy Morrison, Community Coach at Well-Ahead Louisiana, accepted the invitation. With the four organizations aligned, the Bogalusa Mayor’s Wellness Council officially launched. On May 29, the first Bogalusa Strong meeting convened, and 54 motivated community champions began extensive collaborative efforts.

In under a year, the transformation of Bogalusa is evident. Bogalusa Strong has successfully launched a city-wide tobacco cessation campaign, hosted a healthy communities walk audit, facilitated “Smarter Lunchroom” workshops for Bogalusa City Schools, established a bi-annual Mayor’s Walk, installed painted playgrounds across the community, and more.

“Bogalusa Strong has significantly impacted the community by fostering collaborations and increasing community engagement. Through our efforts, we are helping one another to live healthier, happier lives,” said Derek Covert, Vice President of Mission Integration, Our Lady of the Angels Hospital.

“LSU AgCenter is excited to be recognized for our role in the Bogalusa Strong healthy community efforts,” said Valerie Vincent, Family and Consumer Science Regional Coordinator, LSU AgCenter. “We are engaging the community at all levels. Tackling policy, system and environment models to work towards creating a heathier community where all people thrive. We are honored to be recognized as one of the community partners, and our hope is that these changes will improve physical activity and nutrition, reduce obesity, and prevent and control chronic diseases among our residents.”

Taffy Morrison, Healthy Communities Coach, Well-Ahead Louisiana, said, “It’s an honor and a privilege to work with a community so passionately concerned about their people and the future of their city. This immense group of engaged and caring community members is determined to create a city that doesn’t just survive but thrives. These efforts will lead to improved emotional and physical health, enhanced quality of life, a growing economy, and an elevated standard of living for all.”

Other Louisiana Community Star Award recipients include Dr. Roland Degeyter and Allen Parish Hospital. All awardees are featured in the 2018 edition of the National Rural Health Day Community Stars book, available at www.powerofrural.org.