BATON ROUGE - In April, the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) along with Gov. Bobby Jindal launched the Well-Ahead Louisiana initiative, which encourages healthy behavior and designates organizations as WellSpots. WellSpots are the healthy places around the state that voluntarily champion and embrace health and wellness. WellSpots can be employers, schools, health care providers, universities, child care centers and restaurants. Today, Well-Ahead Louisiana designated its first three WellSpots, Mestizo Restaurant, Mid-City Market and AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana all located in Baton Rouge.
"Designating our first three WellSpots is a wonderful achievement for Well-Ahead and a step in the right direction for Louisiana," said DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert. "Mestizo, Mid-City Market and AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana are setting a wonderful example for other businesses in our state. Becoming a WellSpot ensures employees and customers know that these businesses are investing in the health and wellness of all Louisianians."
The Well-Ahead designation includes three levels of WellSpots, Level One, Level Two and Level Three. Level One is the highest level and indicates that the highest number of Well-Ahead criteria have been met, followed by Level Two and Level Three. All entities applying to become WellSpots must be 100 percent tobacco free. Mestizo, Mid-City Market and AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana were designated Level Two WellSpots.
"I am extremely proud of the work that Mestizo, Mid-City Market and AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana put into becoming a Well-Ahead WellSpot," said J.T. Lane, Assistant Secretary for Public Health. "Our DHH Health Promotions team was able to easily identify the measures these businesses took to ensure they met the Well-Ahead criteria. Small, voluntary measures like going tobacco free, offering healthy menus items and worksite wellness plans will positively impact the health of our state."
To meet the Level Two WellSpot criteria, Mestizo is 100 percent tobacco free, trained its staff to offer healthy dining options, has a number of healthy menu options for both adults and children, accommodates for dietary restrictions and is a 5-2-1-0 partner which means the restaurant encourages everyone to eat five fruits and veggies daily, limit screen time to two hours or less, get one hour or more of physical activity each day and to drink water or low-fat milk instead of sugar-sweetened drinks.
"Mestizo Restaurant knows how important it is to accommodate all customers and we identified the need to provide healthier menu options for our patrons," said Jim Urdiales CEO of Mestizo Restaurant. "Customers of all ages are choosing to live healthier lives, so I knew we could accommodate their needs with the same great flavor and quality they expect from Mestizo. The changes we wanted to make in our restaurant correlated perfectly with Well-Ahead Louisiana's mission, so becoming a WellSpot was a very natural fit. We're excited to be one of the state's first WellSpots and proud to encourage health and wellness in Louisiana."
Mid-City Market is a Level Two WellSpot by being tobacco-free, training staff to understand how each entree is prepared, including at least three healthy entree options on their menu, accommodating patrons who have dietary restrictions, offering the ServSafe course so employees have an understanding of critical information relative to food allergies, and is a 5-2-1-0 partner.
"Mid-City Market is proud to be a designated Well-Ahead Louisiana WellSpot," said Chef Don Bergeron of Mid-City Market. "Becoming a WellSpot means we take the health and wellness of our customers just as seriously as we take our food. My philosophy is everything in moderation, especially with the abundance of great Louisiana cuisine we offer. I encourage everyone to visit Mid-City Market and experience our traditional recipes along with our healthy options that taste great and lead to a healthier life."
AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana met the Level Two WellSpot designation by ensuring their office is 100 percent tobacco free, having a policy in place to support breastfeeding mothers, implemented a worksite wellness program for employees, offer tobacco cessation support and replacement therapies, promotes the Louisiana Tobacco Quit Line and is a 5-2-1-0 partner.
"We are excited to be the first business certified as a Well-Ahead WellSpot," said Rebecca Engelman, executive director of AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana. "Our mission is to help the people of this great state get care, stay well and build healthy communities, and one of the ways we accomplish this is by encouraging our members to make smart choices. Our workplace and the benefits we provide to our associates reflect this commitment to helping people adopt healthier lifestyles and behaviors."
Well-Ahead Louisiana, the first voluntary designation program of its kind in the state, encourages organizations and individuals to make small healthy lifestyle changes to the spaces where Louisiana residents spend most of their time. Well-Ahead establishes healthy living designation criteria for organizations to follow that will result in better health outcomes for Louisiana residents. These changes will make smart choices an easier part of living and working in Louisiana.
Organizations making positive changes may voluntarily request a Well-Ahead team member to verify that it has completed wellness-based changes and may be designated WellSpots in Louisiana. DHH will recognize those WellSpots and the organization will be able to display signage and Well-Ahead campaign material to let Louisiana residents know it considers wellness to be a priority.
Organizations interested in becoming a WellSpot can visit www.WellAheadLA.com or call 1-844-LA-AHEAD for more information and to apply. Follow Well-Ahead on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WellAheadLA and Twitter @WellAheadLA.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about DHH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH's Twitter account and Facebook.