State program provides tools for healthier residents - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

State program provides tools for healthier residents

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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

Lunch time at Mid-City Market means a steady stream of customers lining up for classic Louisiana recipes. However, in addition to hardy meal selections, customers can also choose options labeled healthy.

"People really appreciate the initiative you put in to first of all use fresh products, and second of all trying to put a healthy twist on items that are popular already," said Mid-City Market Director of Operations Bryan Sharkey. 

Mid-city Market is one of the first designated Well Spots under a new state program called Well Ahead Louisiana. The free, voluntary program looks to give any organization, from restaurants to schools, the tools they need to create a healthy environment. 

"It really helps us link all the resources that the Department of Health and Hospitals has on hand and plugs people in to that," said Caroline Brazeel, Director of Health Promotion for the Office of Public Health. 

To be designated a Well Spot, groups must meet certain criteria outlined by the DHH. The criteria varies depending on the type of organization. For example, restaurants must offer healthier meal options, or provide for dietary restrictions. However, all groups must first go tobacco free, a task that Brazeel recognizes as difficult. 

"Our tobacco control program here can help an organization think through what needs to be in your tobacco policy and how do you help people at your organizers who are smokers quit," said Brazeel. 

Sharkey said smoking is common in the restaurant industry, so going tobacco free was a challenge. However, he says employees are adjusting. 

In addition to the health benefits for individuals, there is a financial benefit for employers when more focus is put on wellness. According to the CDC, businesses lose $1,685 per employee each year due to health issues. That adds up to more than $225 billion dollars a year nationwide.

“Healthy people are happier employees and they're more productive employees,” said Brazeel. “From a business case and a money case, there's certainly an argument to be made in terms of reduced premiums and reduced cost. There's a lot of evidence behind that."

To get involved in Well Ahead or to become a Well Spot, go to www.WellAheadLA.com.

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