Publisher and Contributing Writer
Photograph: OGH Foundation Director Tracey Antee and Washington Mayor Dwight Landreneau discuss health in the parish. (Photo by Bobby Ardoin.)
A St. Landry Parish health report was introduced to municipal and parish elected officials on Wednesday and the results are anything but flattering.
Mayors from several parish towns were apprised that St. Landry is at-risk for a variety of health issues such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and mental health, during a seminar sponsored by the Healthy St. Landry Alliance affiliate of the Opelousas General Health System Foundation.
Depending upon which national survey is presented St. Landry ranks at least third as one of the unhealthiest parishes in Louisiana.
“We’re definitely not one of the healthiest…We have a lot of work to do,” said OGH CEO Kenneth Cochran, who asked the mayors who attended the event at the Delta Grand Theater to help parish health providers improve the conditions in their municipalities.
Rene Stansberry, who represented the OGH Smoke Free St. Landry initiative, urged the mayors to adopt ordinances that would make their incorporated areas smoke free.
Stansberry said smoking is a major problem in St. Landry and the habit has a direct effect on blood pressure, different types of cancers, diabetes patients and hypertension.
“St. Landry has one of the highest amputation rates for diabetics in Louisiana,” said Stansberry.
What role vaping has played in the St. Landry health situation is uncertain at this point, Stansberry said. However Stansberry added the vaping industry in Louisiana is still unregulated, so a statistical analysis of that industry is vague.
Stansberry also pointed out the OGH Foundation is expecting to be awarded two grants that will help address smoking in St. Landry communities.
Cochran said much of the parish work force remains either under insured or not insured for their health.
Some health providers in the parish have refused to accept Medicaid patients Cochran said, but that void is being covered by the addition of rural health clinics in smaller communities such as Sunset, Washington, Lawtell and Plaisance.
“These facilities are supported by all types of funding and they embrace Medicaid,” said Cochran.
St. Landry, statistics show, has a higher than average teenage pregnancy rate than most other Louisiana parishes, added Cochran.
Cochran said that infants born to teenage mothers are more likely to develop neo-natal complications, live longer in poverty and have fathers who won’t participate in the lives of their children.
Tim Marks, chief OGH population, health and clinical integration officer, said it’s time to consider attacking the health situation in St. Landry a little differently.
Marks said statistics indicate that 30 percent of the parish has either poor or fair overall health.
St. Landry might want to adopt what Marks called population health care, which includes integrating healthy food choices, obesity management and more active lifestyles which if followed can offset unhealthy lifestyles that include smoking, obesity and alcohol use.
Tracey Antee, OGH Foundation Director, said steps are being taken parish wide to improve the overall health situation in St. Landry.
Antee pointed to the walking trail that covers slightly more than a mile of South City Park in Opelousas as one of the steps that city officials there have instituted to provide exercise.
“I always see people (on the walking trail). We also have the diaper bank. Diapers are not covered by insurance in many cases and we not only provide infant diapers, but we also have access to adult diapers which are expensive,” Antee said.
Antee said nearby Lafayette Parish ranks as one of the top four healthy parishes and questioned why there is so much difference between the two parishes, since Lafayette is only 20 miles away from St. Landry.