Friday, December 15, 2017

What you need to know before buying lottery tickets as a gift

Author: Quinetta Womack, Director of Problem Gambling Services

A quick Google search shows pages and pages of ideas on ways to give lottery tickets as gifts or as decorations for the holidays. This isn’t unusual as gambling is often characterized as being harmless fun. During the holidays well-meaning parents and relatives often give lottery tickets, scratch-offs and other gambling games to children, allowing the child to dream, if just for a minute, of having all the toys in the world.

In reality, no one ever points out that the odds of hitting the jackpot are miniscule. Instead, we are actually, but inadvertently, promoting gambling to our children.  According to the Association of Problem Gambling (APGSA), studies show that some of the highest rates of problematic gambling are among young people under age 18. This simple stocking stuffer, given with all good intentions, can help promote problem gambling. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

How we are helping providers better serve people with complex developmental disabilities and medical needs

Author: Mark Thomas, Assistant Secretary, Louisiana Department of Health
Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities

In Louisiana, there are over 38,000 people identified as eligible for services in our disability data system.  They are your friends, relatives, parents and children.  At the Louisiana Department of Health, we strive to assist those with disabilities who need our support and services. 

These benefits are achieved through our Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities, or OCDD, which serves as the single-point-of-entry into the developmental disabilities services system and oversees public/private residential services and other services for people with developmental disabilities. Local human services districts/authorities serve as the points of entry* for individuals to receive those services.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Your chances of surviving an emergency are better because you live in Louisiana

Author: Dr. Rosanne Prats, Executive Director, Emergency Preparedness

When November ended, so too did the hurricane season. In Louisiana, each spring begins with trepidation of hurricanes and the unknown storm(s) that may rip up the state from bottom to top. So, when the season ends in November, it is with the relief of surviving yet another season.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Don’t let food poisoning spoil your holiday meal

David J. Holcombe, M.D., M.S.A., Regional Medical Director, Region 6 (Alexandria Region)

The recent jambalaya fund-raiser in central Louisiana that resulted in an outbreak of Salmonella demonstrates the potential for food contamination when large meals are prepared. The outbreak made nearly 160 people getting sick, sent 45 people to the hospital and is suspected to have caused one death, staggering numbers for a city of only 384 people.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Behavioral Health Partnership Supports Quitline Sustainability

Author: Melissa Martin, Director, Well-Ahead Louisiana

Since 2014, the Louisiana Department of Health’s Well-Ahead Louisiana initiative and Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) have partnered to address tobacco use in the behavioral health population. The partnership has allowed for better data collection that shows a large percentage of callers to the Quitline also have a mental illness.

Friday, October 20, 2017

When should women start getting mammograms?

David J. Holcombe, M.D., M.S.A., Regional Medical Director, Region 6 (Alexandria Region)

Controversy continues to surround the optimal time for women to get their initial screening mammogram,  Diagnostic mammograms (unlike screening mammograms) can be started at any age since they are used to “diagnose” palpable masses (lumps) or other abnormal masses or lesions discovered on exam.  But true screening mammograms (in the absence of a visible or noticeable lump) continue to pose a particular dilemma.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Flu Can be Dangerous for Children

Author: Dr. Frank Welch, Medical Director, Immunization Program

The flu, also known as influenza, is more dangerous than the common cold for children and poses a serious threat to the health and well-being of children and their families each year. Children commonly need medical care because of the flu, especially before they reach the age of five, and each year an average of 20,000 children under the age of five are hospitalized because of flu complications.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Responding to Disasters Far and Wide

David J. Holcombe, M.D., M.S.A., Regional Medical Director, Region 6 (Alexandria Region)

The Louisiana Department of Health’s communications team talked to Dr. David Holcombe about his recent deployment to Washington, DC as a member of a federal disaster medical assistance team, or DMAT. Holcombe is the regional medical director for LDH’s Office of Public Health in the Alexandria region. During his deployment, he served as the Chief Medical Officer in the Federal Medical Station that is housed in the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, headquarters for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Friday, September 29, 2017

How Louisiana is Responding to the Needs of Puerto Rico

Author: Rosanne Prats, Executive Director, Emergency Response

If there is one thing Louisiana knows how to handle, it’s a hurricane.  And I guess you can add floods, tornadoes, and other various natural disasters to the list.  Although our southern location provides many jobs and vital resources, it also makes us vulnerable to the elements.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Exposure to lead at indoor shooting ranges poses a health risk

Author: Anna Reilly, PhD, MPH and Jocelyn Lewis, PhD, MSPH; Office of Public Health, Occupational Health Program 

Across the nation and in Louisiana, target shooting is growing in popularity. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, more than 20 million Americans enjoy target shooting. And if you think the popularity is limited to older men, you’d miss the mark. In fact, competitive shooting is one of the fastest growing high school and community-based sports in the country.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Following the Flood: Safely Returning Home

Author: Parham Jaberi, MD, Assistant State Health Officer, Assistant Secretary for Office of Public Health

Mold. Snakes and other reptiles. Sharp objects. Deep water, and possibly contaminated drinking water.

These are all hazards that people face when returning home to a flooded house or structure. The Louisiana Department of Health advises all residents to be aware of the dangers flood waters pose and to take all appropriate precautions.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Are Vaccines Safe? Do They Cause Autism?

Author: Emily Ashworth, RN, BSN

With: Bertrand J. Foch, MD, Region 5 (Lake Charles) Medical Director, Office of Public Health

This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of the Voice of Southwest Louisiana. OPH’s Dr. Foch was the key contributor. The publication also included a counterpoint article that suggested vaccines caused autism. This is a myth that never seems to go away even in the face of numerous studies have found no evidence to support this belief. This has resulted in a growing number of parents who are refusing to vaccinate their children. Visit for more information about the myths that have potential to cast doubt on vaccines as one of the pillars of modern medicine.

As we gear up to send our children back to school, one of the items to check off the list is making sure the shot record is up-to-date.  Have you ever asked yourself, “Should I vaccinate my child?  Will they get sick?  Will they develop autism?”  Take a few minutes and explore these questions with me. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Tobacco use rates in Louisiana remain high while rates go down nationwide

Author: Melissa Martin, Director, Well-Ahead Louisiana

In spite of a continued downward trend in adult rates of smoking nationwide, the rate in Louisiana remains relatively high. Experts say this can be attributed to wealthier people kicking the habit while poorer Americans are still lighting up.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Send Your Children Back to School Protected from Serious Diseases

Author: Dr. Frank Welch

Back-to-school season is here! It’s time for parents to gather school supplies and back packs. It’s also the perfect time to make sure your children are up to date on their vaccines.

Friday, July 14, 2017

It’s Getting HOT Out There

Author: David J. Holcombe, M.D., M.S.A., Regional Medical Director, Region 6 (Alexandria Region)

After experiencing what was for Louisiana a relatively mild spring and early summer, Louisiana’s hot and humid days returned with a vengeance in July. Daily temperatures soared into the mid-90s, and combined with high humidity, pushed the heat index to over 105 degrees just about every day this month.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Congressional Ballpark Shooting Demonstrates the Value of Trauma Care in Communities

Author: Paige Hargrove, Executive Director, Louisiana Emergency Response Network

Board members and staff of the Louisiana Emergency Response Network watched and listened in horror to the breaking news coverage of the recent shooting rampage that erupted on a community baseball field in Virginia, which critically injured Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise. The LERN family extends our best wishes for a full recovery to Congressman Scalise.

This senseless act of violence serves as the latest reminder that immediate and appropriate medical response to severe traumatic injury can save lives. No doubt, the medical response to this “ballpark shooting” incident will be carefully studied and analyzed for lessons learned – two basic facts of this case are already being cited as probable lifesavers.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Gov. Edwards to Louisiana Senators: Louisiana Uniquely Harmed by BCRA

In the seven years since the Affordable Care Act was passed, more than 575,000 Louisianans have gained health care coverage. This includes more than 433,000 newly covered adults who are enrolled in Medicaid in the past 12 months, and another 143,000 plus people who have gained private health coverage through the ACA exchange, or the Marketplace.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Creating a generation of healthier women and children

Author: Dr. Rebekah Gee, Secretary

In an effort to create a generation of healthier women and children in Louisiana, The Department of Health has implemented many initiatives to encourage change and improvement.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

WIC helps improve the health of low income families

Program improvements meet federal requirements, vendor moratorium lifted

Author: Bruce Boyea, Director, Bureau of Nutritional Services

In Louisiana, as well as in all other states, research has shown that the program known as WIC, shorthand for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, is a funding investment that is cost-effective and improves the health status of infants and children. WIC is a federal program – run by the United States Department of Agriculture – that is administered at the state level by the Office of Public Health in Louisiana.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Summer Water and Swim Safety

Author: Dr. Raoult Ratard, State Epidemiologist

From the backyard or neighborhood pool, to the beach, local rivers, streams and lakes, Louisiana residents will begin flocking to the water beginning this Memorial Day weekend.

Before you dive in this summer, it’s important to know what may be lurking under the surface.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Poor health habits by Louisiana’s seniors lead to poor health rankings

Author: David J. Holcombe, M.D., M.S.A., Regional Medical Director, Region 6 (Alexandria Region)

In conjunction with America’s Health Rankings, there is a specific report issued annually for senior health for each state. America’s Health Rankings Senior Report for 2016 is the most recent report available and it usually parallels health rankings for Louisiana as a whole, with some exceptions. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

It’s not enough to prepare for a hurricane

Your game plan must address other types of severe weather
Author: Kenyatta Esters, Emergency Preparedness Manager

When people think of severe weather in Louisiana, many immediately picture a menacing hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico taking aim for our state. It is true that Louisiana has experienced many tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes.  However, as many of us have witnessed recently, Louisiana also experiences catastrophic flooding, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, heat waves, and even ice storms.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Improving Birth Outcomes in Louisiana

Author: Rebekah E. Gee, MD, Secretary, Louisiana Department of Health

In an effort to create a generation of healthier women and children in Louisiana, our team at the Louisiana Department of Health initiated the Louisiana Birth Outcomes quality effort in 2010. The team, that included staff from Medicaid, the Office of Public Health, the Louisiana Perinatal Commission and other medical experts, began with the goal of eliminating medically unnecessary or elective deliveries prior to 39 weeks gestation as one of its major strategies. Specifically, this included cesarean deliveries or inducing labor through medication. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Louisiana’s Medicaid eligibility expert retires

Career spent helping children and adults get access to health care services

Author: Jen Steele, Medicaid Director

Ruth Kennedy, a former Medicaid director with the Louisiana Department of Health, recently retired from our department. Ms. Kennedy is a nationally recognized expert in helping eligible individuals enroll in Medicaid services. Her expertise in designing and implementing outreach, enrollment and retention strategies resulted in Louisiana becoming a national leader in children’s coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or LaCHIP.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Colorectal Cancer: Still a problem

Author: David J. Holcombe, M.D., M.S.A., Regional Medical Director, Region 6 (Alexandria Region)

Colorectal cancer remains a significant problem in Louisiana.  Even though we have a highly effective screening method (i.e. colonoscopy), only 64.3% of adults over 50 have been screened. The inevitable result of low screening is a high number of new cases of colorectal cancer (3rd in the U.S.) and the 4th highest mortality rate among states.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

LDH Secretary Dr. Gee spoke to Jim Engster on Talk Louisiana this week and shared her thoughts on Medicaid expansion, budget cuts and more. Listen to her full interview.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Department of Health and Department of Corrections team up to provide health care coverage for newly released offenders

Pre-Release Medicaid Enrollment Program for Offender Population

Author: Jennifer Katzman, Medicaid Program Manager

Numerous studies show that access to mental health, substance use and other health care services helps former offenders better integrate back into their communities, lessening the likelihood of these individuals committing future crimes. Now, because of Medicaid expansion, the Louisiana Department of Health and the Department of Corrections are helping incarcerated individuals enroll into Medicaid, with coverage beginning once the individual’s sentence is complete and they transition out of prison.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Service is the American Dream

Author: SreyRam Kuy, MD, Medicaid Medical Director

A doctor, a sheriff and a Marine walk into a room…

It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but actually, this was my experience as part of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program, a civic leadership program between the Clinton Presidential Center, George W. Bush Presidential Center, the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation, and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation. 

In 2017, I was selected to participate in the program and it was a tremendous opportunity to witness young leaders from very different backgrounds, to come together and find common ground. My class consists of a diverse group of 60 emerging leaders, including a judge, a poet, a Green Beret, a hedge fund manager, a baker and a surgeon. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Louisiana beginning to see cases of mumps: Health experts offer tips to avoid getting sick

 Author: Parham Jaberi, MD, Assistant State Health Officer

Some cases of the mumps are beginning to appear in Louisiana. Due to a large outbreak in our neighboring state, Arkansas, we’re following the cases here in Louisiana closely.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Well-Ahead Louisiana helps students Kick Butts – School courtyard turns into graveyard

Author: Melissa R. Martin, Office of Public Health

Well-Ahead Louisiana, an initiative of the Louisiana Department of Health recently helped East Baton Rouge Parish students Kick Butts.

Kick Butts Day is an annual celebration of youth leadership and activism in the fight against tobacco use. Schools across America participate in interactive activities and events that empower youth to stand up, speak out and seize control against Big Tobacco – and commit to stay tobacco-free. 

In partnership with the East Baton Rouge Student Alliance Council (SAC), Well-Ahead Louisiana organized eight Kick Butts Day events at local high schools: Broadmoor High, McKinley High, Woodlawn High, Northdale High, Glen Oaks High, Scotlandville High, Lee High, and Belaire High.  The SAC developed two interactive Kick Butts activities – Smoker’s Obstacle Course and Body Bag for a Cigarette.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Just because you’re on the Waiting List doesn’t mean you need to wait for services

Other services available for people on the NOW waiver

Author: Mark A. Thomas, Assistant Secretary, Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities

When I began my career, as a direct support professional in the field of disability services more than 20 years ago, one of the biggest challenges facing families and individuals with disabilities who were seeking services was the Request for Services Registry. Most people called this the waiting list for the NOW waiver (New Opportunities Waiver). Today, in my role as the Assistant Secretary for the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities, the waiting list, which is approaching 15,000 people, is still an issue. I recognize that change is needed and I'm pleased to share news about the progress we've made. 

Over the last several years, the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities has been working in collaboration with recipients, families, advocates and stakeholders to improve our service delivery system through a system transformation initiative. Our staff has been aggressively pursuing a variety of best practices that will allow us to serve more people in home and community-based settings. Critical to this is addressing the waiting list through our Request for Services Registry Screening Project. Through this project, we'll be able to better understand the needs of those waiting and ensure they are directed to other helpful resources and services. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Louisiana Department of Health launches Medicaid Expansion Dashboard

Author: Andrew Tuozzolo, Chief of Staff

As the Louisiana Department of Health undertook Medicaid expansion in 2016, we focused on making the process as efficient and transparent as possible. To demonstrate the outcomes and success of expansion, Dr. Rebekah Gee, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, challenged the agency to build an online dashboard to present real-time data in an easy to understand format. Taking up Dr. Gee’s charge, a team was formed that leveraged the expertise of Medicaid leaders, data analysts, developers, and communications staff.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Louisiana Health Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee responds to Sen. Kennedy on Medicaid

Author: Dr. Rebekah Gee, Secretary

Medicaid expansion is covering hundreds of thousands more working adults and ensuring they have access to primary care. In addition, Medicaid Expansion is bringing in more federal tax dollars to our state and saving Louisiana taxpayers $184 million.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

North Baton Rouge ER Groundbreaking

Author: Michelle Alletto, Deputy Secretary

The Louisiana Department of Health joined elected officials, community leaders, and representatives from Our Lady of the Lake on January 31, 2017 for the North Baton Rouge ER Groundbreaking.

The Our Lady of the Lake North Emergency Room is expected to open in October of 2017. The facility will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by emergency physicians who specialize in providing comprehensive emergency care for patients with acute illnesses or injuries.

Naloxone now available for emergency overdose treatment via standing order

Author: Dr. SreyRam Kuy, Medicaid Medical Director

Louisiana is ranked first in opioid prescribing of all 50 states. The Louisiana Department of Health continues to work with partners throughout the state to address the opioid epidemic and develop potential solutions. 

The State of Louisiana recently issued a “standing order” for naloxone. Naloxone is an antidote medication that reverses an opioid overdose. Used by medical professionals for years, naloxone is the most effective way to counteract an overdose and save lives.

Keeping Your Drinking Water Safe

Author: Dr. Jimmy Guidry, State Health Officer

Access to safe, clean drinking water is one of the hallmarks of modern society. Here at the Louisiana Department of Health, we have a whole team dedicated to making sure that drinking water systems in the state are doing their jobs in providing clean water to their customers. One program in particular assists water systems in their quest to improve water quality: the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund.