Dr. Gary Wiltz, far left, with local officials signing proclamations for National Health Center Week: Berwick Mayor Louis Ratcliff, Baldwin Mayor Donna Lanceslin, Parish President David Hanagriff, Franklin Mayor Raymond Harris Jr. and Morgan City Mayor Frank "Boo" Grizzaffi.
The Chambers of Health
Teche Action Clinic and the St. Mary Chamber of Commerce hosted a “Rise and Shine” breakfast Wednesday morning to officially proclaim this week National Health Center Week.
The mayors of Franklin, Baldwin, Berwick and Morgan City were on hand to sign the official proclamations, and Dr. Gary Wiltz, chief executive officer of Teche Action Clinic, delivered remarks on Louisiana’s Chambers of Health initiatives and programs.
America’s Health Rankings were published for 2017, with Louisiana ranking 49th in overall health, 45th in physical activity, 47th in cancer deaths, 45th in diabetes, 43rd in smoking and 50th in obesity. Of the 64 parishes in Louisiana, St. Mary Parish ranks 34 in overall health.
Wiltz said of changing those rankings, “The answer lies within each one of us, on a local level.”
TAC’s “Chambers of Health” initiative is working to synchronize local culture around the goal of intervention through primary health education. This is to be done with cooperation from local and parish governments, schools, businesses, organizations and communities.
Wiltz pointed to Terrebonne Parish as an example of progress through local, synchronized education. Terrebonne ranked 23 of the 64 parishes, showing improvement following implementation of the kind of initiatives and programs TAC intends to model here, with newly procured state and private grants.
To that end, Wiltz made note of the TAC partnership with Jeanne Solis of the Terrebonne Chamber of Health Leadership Alliance. Solis said that Terrebonne Parish is launching its COH initiative right now, and as soon as they work the kinks out, they will bring it to St. Mary Parish. Of local organizations coming together, Solis said, “We are all citizens, we are all taxpayers. We need to pull together and move in the same direction on this.”
One particular implementation Wiltz addressed to improve parish health is the focus on smoking cessation.
Wiltz said he wants to ban smoking on public campuses using ordinances and policies adopted on local levels. He realizes there will be an unpopularity factor to such ordinances, but remains committed, nonetheless, and nodded to New Orleans as an example of such policies successfully in effect. The initiative is one that TAC will be “rolling out in the next few weeks.”
According to Wiltz, there was $200 million in state funds set aside some years ago for the purpose of assisting Louisianans to quit smoking. The expiration date for those funds is approaching, and according to Wiltz, there is approximately $180 million left to be used before the funds become inaccessible. Wiltz said he intends to make sure the available appropriations get drained, just as the “swamp” in DC is famously promised to be.
TAC board member Ed “Tiger” Verdin closed the breakfast with the unveiling of TAC’s new public awareness campaign, #IAMTecheActionClinic.
To learn more about the Chambers of Health and their programs, contact:
Gary Wiltz, MD, CEO, Teche Action Clinics, firstname.lastname@example.org, 337-828-2550,
Chip Riggins, MD, MPH, Administrator, LA Office of Public Health, Region-3, Chip.riggins@.gov, 985-447-0916 Ext. 332,
Jeanne Solis, CCO, Terrebonne Chamber of Health Leadership Alliance, email@example.com, 337-288-2225.