Well-Ahead Louisiana was announced almost one year ago on April 18, 2014, and the initiative has already designated 124 WellSpots across Louisiana. It's Public Health Week, and, as the one-year anniversary of the initiative approaches, Well-Ahead Louisiana Director Melissa R. Martin is happy with the initiative's progress.

"We're excited to be working with so many non-traditional partners that are helping bring health into the spaces and places Louisianans work and play," said Martin. "These groups are taking the initiative to voluntarily improve their employees' and customers' healthy lifestyle options."

Worksites, hospitals, schools, colleges, restaurants and child care centers are all represented in the 124 WellSpot designations to date. Private homes may apply for designation as well.

The Louisiana Department of Health (DHH), which houses Well-Ahead, is also excited about the initiative.

"I'm proud of the hard work the Well-Ahead team has put in to make this initiative so successful in its first year," said LDH Secretary Kathy H. Kliebert. "We're looking forward to seeing more organizations, especially restaurants and child care centers, earn their WellSpot designation."

Recent designations include the Cardiovascular Institute of the South, a large organization with more than 15 locations across South Louisiana, as a Level One WellSpot, Southeastern Louisiana University as the first Level Two college or university in the state, and CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital in Lake Charles as the newest Level One hospital.

"We knew Well-Ahead Louisiana was a promising initiative before we announced it almost a year ago," said Martin, "but seeing Louisiana embrace it so quickly and really show an interest in improving the lives of our residents has been a rewarding experience."

LDH assistant secretary for public health J.T. Lane said the Well-Ahead team's accomplishments fit in perfectly with everything the Department is recognizing during Public Health Week.

"Living, learning, working and playing in healthier environments is a significant step for residents, students, employees and their families to improving the health of our state, which we love so much. I am especially proud of every single WellSpot implementing a tobacco-free policy," said Lane. "We are seeing schools and businesses voluntarily step up and champion critical public health goals, including smoking cessation, healthy eating and physical activity. WellSpots are breathing life and health into our state."

George Cox Elementary school in Gretna, the Louisiana Department of Revenue and all six Metropolitan Human Service District locations have also recently earned Well-Ahead Louisiana WellSpot designations.

Organizations interested in WellSpot designation can find more information at Well-Ahead Louisiana's website, www.WellAheadLA.com.

Public Health Week is April 6 through 12, and LDH is celebrating by focusing on various projects within the Office of Public to recognize the work they do for Louisiana. In addition to Well-Ahead Louisiana, LDH has highlighted the opening of a new public health lab in Baton Rouge, discussed its role in HIV/STD prevention, explained the role of a sanitarian and shown how geographic information systems (GIS) have changed the state's ability to improve health outcomes.

The Louisiana Department of Health 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 LDH, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH's Twitter account and Facebook.

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