The Well-Ahead Louisiana initiative has seen tremendous growth since its inception last April, but the Shreveport and Monroe areas still have room for improvement with only three WellSpots between them.

Well-Ahead is an initiative started by the Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) aimed at improving the health and wellness of Louisiana citizens. Well-Ahead promotes and recognizes smart choices in the spaces and places we live and work every day that make it easier for us all to live healthier lives, from going tobacco-free to ensuring healthy lunch options or supporting workplace fitness programs.

There are more than 130 WellSpots in Louisiana, and cities comparable to Shreveport and Monroe such as Lafayette and Alexandria already have two or three times as many WellSpots as the two North Louisiana cities.

"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 Well-Ahead Louisiana Director Melissa R. Martin. "We have 132 WellSpots, but they're mostly in South Louisiana. There's definitely room for growth in the northern parts of the state."

Shreveport organizations University Health and Amerigroup Louisiana, and St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe have all earned Level Two WellSpot designation from Well-Ahead Louisiana.

"University Health, Amerigroup Louisiana and St. Francis Medical Center's participation in the Well-Ahead initiative show the openness to healthier hospitals, worksites and other organizations in North Louisiana," said LDH Secretary Kathy H. Kliebert. "Now we'd like to see some other organizations step up and contact us about becoming a WellSpot."

Worksites, hospitals, schools, colleges, restaurants and child care centers may apply for WellSpot designation. To apply, interested organizations should register on the website, www.wellaheadla.com/register, at which point they will be contacted by a Well-Ahead team member who will walk you through the designation process.

The Well-Ahead team member will answer your questions, provide you with resources to help meet your wellness benchmarks, guide you through your designation as a WellSpot and send you the materials you'll need to promote your designation.

Some recent designations in other parts of the state 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.

"Louisiana's embrace of the Well-Ahead initiative has shown our residents' need for healthier options," said LDH assistant secretary for public health J.T. Lane. "We want to help as many organizations as possible meet those needs."

Visit the Well-Ahead website, www.wellaheadla.com, for more information about becoming a WellSpot and for worksite resources. You can also follow Well-Ahead for weekly tips on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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 LDH's Twitter account and Facebook.

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