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Health & Science

Leaving No One Out: Summit Aims to Improve Health for All

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The Health Equity Summit focuses on the health issues facing northeast Louisiana, and the socio-economic divides that make it diffucult to affect change in the area.

One of the most pressing issues in Ouachita Parish is the state of health of citizens who live here and the many social, economic, and racial divides that hinder improvement.

The Louisiana Public Health Institute hosts a Health Equity Summit June 23 from 8 a.m to 4:30 p.m., and June 24 from 8:30 a.m. to noon .

The Thursday session will look at the history of the issue, and address the racial and cultural differences in how residents receive healthcare. On Friday, community leaders meet to develop an action plan to deal with the serious health problems facing northeast Louisiana.

Issues that will be addressed include the area's disproportionately high rates of smoking, teen pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. The summit will also focus on how factors such as race, income, and location have an affect on these problems.

"When we tackle issues like this, it's not as simple as we'd like to make it out to be," says Jennifer Haneline, spokesperson for Tobacco Free Living, "There are systemic issues, structural issues, and historic issues that have gone on for decades that have really put certain groups in our area at a disadvantage."

Haneline says there is a difference between "equality" and "equity." "You can have the same equal opportunity now, but because of so many historical disadvantages, it really doesn't make it an equal opportunity -- other things have come into play."

Leading the summit is Dr. Charles Corprew from New Orleans. He has been studying the history and current state of the area in order to adapt his experiences in New Orleans to fit the specific needs of northeast Louisiana. 

Haneline says with businesses like CenturyLink and IBM looking to expand in the area, it is important to improve the overall health of our citizens.

More information on the summit is available from Jennifer Haneline at jhaneline@lphi.org.

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