Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Lottery Tickets and Mobile Sports Betting Are Not Meant for Children

The Louisiana Department of Health Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) would like to remind parents that lottery tickets and other gambling-related activities like mobile sports betting are not meant for children. Many parents see these gifts and activities as fun and convenient, and while they might be a quick and easy gift, gambling is not intended for children and is age-restricted for a reason. These gifts and activities could put children at future risk for developing gambling issues.

Two of the biggest indicators of a future potential gambling problem are winning a large sum of money early and early exposure to gambling as a youth. Many problem gamblers report that early exposure to gambling contributed to their gambling issues later in life. Since the legalization of mobile sports betting in Louisiana, parents should be especially aware that any form of gambling is age restricted for a reason.

According to the 2020 Louisiana Caring Communities Youth Survey, 33% of youths in Louisiana (grades 6, 8, 10 and 12) have reported gambling in the past year. In Louisiana, 13.7% of 6th graders, 15.3% of 8th graders, 12.1% of 10th graders and 9.3% of 12th graders have reported playing the lottery or scratch-off tickets in 2020, the last time the survey was issued. In addition, 13.2% of 6th graders, 14.6% of 8th graders, 12% of 10th graders and 9.9% of 12th graders have reported betting on sporting events in 2020, two years before mobile sports betting became popular in Louisiana. Parents need to be mindful about gambling because even though it has become a social norm, we still need to protect young people from being exposed through direct involvement.

According to a recent study by the Imperial College London, published in 2017, gambling addiction triggers the same brain areas as drug and alcohol cravings, and activates the same brain pathways as drug and alcohol cravings.[1]

“Parents should to talk to their children about the potential risks that gambling can cause. Gambling is marketed as being fun and easy and has become extremely popular,” said OBH Deputy Assistant Secretary Quinetta Womack. “We need to let everyone know that there can be potential harms, as well.  The lines are getting blurred between a fun game and an age restricted form of entertainment.”

If you have any questions or want more information about problem gambling, please contact the Louisiana Problem Gamblers Helpline at 1-877-770-STOP (7867). The helpline is a confidential referral line that assists individuals in the state of Louisiana who are affected by gambling problems. Louisiana provides free outpatient and residential problem gambling treatment to Louisiana residents and has facilities throughout Louisiana.

The Louisiana Problem Gamblers Helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to potential gamblers and/or family. Help is also available online at  and Problem gambling is a hidden addiction that often goes undetected. Learn the signs before it is too late.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

LDH sets sickle cell disease support, care and awareness goals in coming year


September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Sickle cell disease (SCD) affects the lives of at least 3,300 Louisianans — our families, neighbors and friends. Despite the prevalence of SCD, many people remain unaware of the complexities and risks associated with this inherited blood disorder.

That is why the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) plans to spotlight SCD not only this month, but throughout the coming year as part of our FY23 Business Plan. 

As you may know, SCD affects the shape of the red blood cells, which carry oxygen to every part of the body. These cells are typically round and flexible, allowing them to move through the body with relative ease. However, the sickle-shaped cells that give SCD its name can block blood flow and cause serious damage. Potential complications include damage to the lungs, brain and other vital organs, stroke and severe pain, among other health issues.


Severe pain episodes, also known as sickle cell crisis, often strike without warning, disrupting lives. In 2020 alone, over 1,400 Louisianans with SCD were hospitalized. On average, those hospitalized had 4 to 5 hospitalizations throughout the year, spending about 30 days total in the hospital. 


In the U.S., SCD most commonly affects people of African, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern descent. Data shows 1 in 13 Black or African-American babies is born with the sickle cell trait (meaning they carry the gene that causes SCD, but do not have SCD) and SCD occurs in 1 in 365 Black or African-American births.


Due to disparities, this condition has lacked the necessary attention, funding and resources. People living with SCD continue to experience barriers with access to and retention of specialized care.


The Department of Health wants to change that in Louisiana, providing families, friends, neighbors and colleagues effective care and support so they can live to the fullest, and so that Louisiana as a whole can function at its best.


To make substantive improvements, LDH needs a firm foundation of knowledge. The Department aims to begin developing a patient registry, needed to make the kind of data-driven decisions that will improve quality of life.


LDH also plans to develop and implement a statewide SCD public information campaign to further support those living with SCD. While there is information available on SCD, this campaign will provide a deeper understanding of SCD to teachers, medical staff and others who play key roles in the lives of those with SCD.


The Department also hopes this campaign will empower those living with SCD to advocate for their needs.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Vaccines represent one of the greatest advances in protecting people from diseases

By: Joseph Bocchini, MD

Throughout my career as a pediatrician, I have witnessed the number of vaccine preventable diseases disappear after the introduction of a vaccine. These discoveries have proven to be some of the most important public health advancements in both the 20th and 21st centuries, and have helped protect against many severe infections that cause significant illnesses and fatalities in both children and adults.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, many people fell behind on receiving their routine immunizations and now there is an increased need for both children and adults to catch up and, going forward, to vaccinate on schedule to protect our families as early as possible and prevent outbreaks.

This is important because many of the organisms responsible for vaccine preventable diseases continue to be present in our communities and being unvaccinated leaves a person susceptible to infection.

Some diseases are making a comeback

Recently, we have seen a rise in the number of measles related outbreaks among children and adults who were unvaccinated. Even more recently, there has been a reported polio case in an unvaccinated adult.

Immunizations throughout adolescence are important. Of vaccines recommended for 11–12-year-olds, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has the lowest percentage of doses administered. HPV causes almost all cervical cancers, most cancers of the genital area, and is responsible for 70% of throat cancers. Researchers expect the HPV vaccine to prevent up to 90% of the 40,000 new cancers associated with the Human Papillomavirus, which occur in the US each year.

It is important that everyone – especially parents – understand the importance of vaccines. I urge individuals of all ages to stay aware of their immunizations and continue to stay on schedule for their vaccinations.


About Dr. Joseph Bocchini – Pediatrician and Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist who has practiced medicine for more than 45 years. He currently serves as the Director of Children’s Health Services for the Willis-Knighton Health System in Shreveport, Louisiana. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Farewell and thank you to LDH's first Executive Internship Cohort

Pictured, from left to right are, Undersecretary Ruth Johnson, interns Sarah Lehman, Matthew Foster, Jekila Dockery, Anna Crifasi, Isabel Zebrick and Joseph Patterson, and Tonya Joiner with the Office of the Secretary.

The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) recently said farewell and thank you to its first Executive Internship Cohort.

“What we do here is so important as it touches everyone from our children to our grandchildren to our neighbors. We hope we imparted that to you and that your experiences will continue to increase your interest in public health,” said Tonya Joiner with the Office of the Secretary.

Beginning June 6, the 11 participants each joined a different department or program office where they learned what it means to be a public servant. Throughout their time at LDH, the interns learned about the inner workings of LDH, visited the Capitol and met with different legislators.

The program ended August 12.

“You all set the bar. You were our first cohort. Thank you for the time you spent with us. We hope you will come back and work with us in the future," said  
Undersecretary Ruth Johnson.

“I don’t have the words to explain how awesome the internship was. I learned a lot and I’m very grateful for this opportunity,” said intern Anna Crifasi.

We wish our 2022 Executive Internship Cohort all the best!

Central, Northwest Offices of Public Health help children get safe start to new school year

To celebrate students returning to school, the Louisiana Department of Health's (LDH) regional Offices of Public Health (OPH) have been participating in back-to-school events to help families become prepared and protected against COVID-19. 

OPH Region 6 (Central Louisiana)

OPH Region 6 staff, representatives from Punto de Conexion and Pafford recently worked together on a backpack giveaway in Alexandria.

Region 6 partnered with Pastor Juan-Jose Romero and the recently-founded Hispanic church Punto de Conexion in Alexandria to host a backpack giveaway at the Kent Plantation House. LDH gave the first 200 school-aged children free backpacks.

Children and parents receive free school supplies and resources during a backpack giveaway at Kent Plantation House in Alexandria.

LDH team members distributed free school supplies and provided fun crafts and activities to more than 450 children. Parents received informational materials and resources from various departments including WIC and Immunizations. Pafford, OPH’s regional contracted vaccination team, administered COVID-19 and routine back-to-school vaccines.

Region 6 also participated in a back-to-school event at the Alexandria Mall, handing out informational brochures and LDH swag materials. Families received text codes for a chance to win prizes and gift cards for school shopping. OPH Region 6 nurses and immunization staff administered both routine and COVID-19 vaccines.

OPH Region 7 (Northwest)

Region 7 participated in a Back to School Bash, hosted by Essentials 4 Families Diaper Bank, at Caddo Middle Career and Technology School in Shreveport. LDH team members handed out bags filled with COVID-19 informational brochures, home test kits, COVID-19 protection kits, coloring books, LDH promotional items and other COVID-19 informational papers. The COVID-19 protection kits included a N95 mask, a tissue packet, two pairs of gloves, two disposable thermometers, a bottle of hand sanitizer and some antimicrobial towelettes.

Community Health Worker Michelle Thompson, Health Disparities Strategist Ariel Washington and Communications Coordinator Ana VanEaton, from left to right, helped attendees learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine.