How urban planners can promote health and wellness

The Baton Rouge Health District offers a holistic look at how to improve health care at all scales

Health care challenges are a hot topic in Louisiana’s capital. The United Health Care Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings 2015 report ranked the state in last place in population health, in part due to racial disparities and a high poverty rate. Most troublingly, Louisiana’s rate of residents with Type 2 diabetes ranks among the highest in the country. In 1998, roughly 6.5 percent of the state’s population had diabetes. Now, 13.9 percent of the state, or 520,000 people, have the adult-onset disease.

“In Louisiana, the need is urgent,” says urban planner Basak Alkan. “There’s a greater amount of obesity and diabetes in the community that needs to be addressed urgently, across sectors, by everyone.”

To help solve the problem, Louisiana’s capital, Baton Rouge, is turning to an increasingly common strategy—using urban planning, and the creation of the new Baton Rouge Health District, as part of a larger campaign focused on improving public health.

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