June 5, 2012

Blue Cross Foundation Challenge Grant Program Generates $110 Million in Innovative Ideas for a Healthy Louisiana

Panel of national healthcare experts will review applications for funding

A panel of leading healthcare experts from across the country will gather in Baton Rouge later this month to review applications for Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana, a $10 million statewide challenge grant program presented by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation in partnership with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. The challenge grant program aims to reduce the rising obesity rate across Louisiana by providing financial support to innovative programs that promote healthy eating and active living.

Groups across the state submitted 49 grant applications, says Christy Reeves, director of the Foundation. Those groups pledged $78 million in matching funds and requested $32 million in grants. “We’re pleased with the thought that went into the applications and the financial commitments that have been made by local non-profits and government groups,” Reeves says. “The purpose of this challenge grant program was to get a broad coalition of local organizations working together to combat obesity and chart a new future for Louisiana residents. That goal has certainly been met.”

The grant applications include requests for funds to build walking and biking trails to connect playgrounds and community centers in West Feliciana Parish, establish fresh seafood markets to connect shrimpers in Delcambre with underserved neighborhoods in New Iberia, offer “exercise prescriptions” and “fruit and veggie prescriptions” redeemable at parks and farmer’s markets in New Orleans and set up health and art festivals in Shreveport.

A national panel of experts will convene in Baton Rouge to determine how to distribute the $10 million in challenge grant funds over the next three years. The panel will be led by Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk, the associate executive director of Pennington. Dr. Stephanie Broyles, an assistant professor at Pennington, will serve as the vice chair.

Other members include Reeves; Joanne Lee of Active Living by Design, which is associated with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Laura Lundin, of the national Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association in Chicago; Dr. Birgitta Baker of the LSU Kinesiology Department; Dr. Michael Edwards of the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M; Dr. Greg Heath of the Department of Health and Human Performance at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; Tiffany J. Netters of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals’ Office of Public Health; Dr. Robert Newton of Pennington; Dr. Ariane Rung of the LSU Health Science Center’s School of Public Health; Dr. Susan Sisson of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center; and Dr. Amanda Staiano of Pennington.

The panel’s funding recommendations will be presented to the Foundation Board later this summer, and the grant programs will begin Sept. 1.

Of the 49 grant applications, 18 came from the New Orleans area, which includes the Northshore, 10 came from the Baton Rouge region, seven were from multi-regional groups (but not statewide), four were from statewide organizations, four were from the Shreveport area, three were from the Monroe region, which includes Alexandria, two were from the Lafayette region, and one was from the Lake Charles area.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Founded in New Orleans in 1934, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is the oldest and largest Louisiana-based health insurance company. Blue Cross is a private, fully taxed mutual company, owned by policyholders—not shareholders—and governed by a local Board of Directors. It is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

The company and its subsidiaries provide group and individual health insurance plans, life and disability insurance, group voluntary products and administrative services to more than one out of every four Louisiana residents. With headquarters in Baton Rouge and eight district offices, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana employs more than 1,900 Louisianians who are committed to improving the lives of its customers by providing them with health guidance and affordable access to quality care.

Learn more on the company's website at www.bcbsla.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bluecrossla. Follow Blue Cross on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BCBSLA and CEO Mike Reitz at www.twitter.com/MikeReitzCEO