By Tina Dirmann
staff writer for BCBSLA Founation
Jena’s Band of Choctaw Indians used the Easter holiday as a chance to celebrate family fun, tradition and good health! More than 50 kids and their families turned out last Saturday (March 16) for the Children’s Wellness Easter Egg Hunt. And while the kids had a blast participating in the timeless tradition of hunting hidden multi-color egg treats, there was also a bigger message conveyed throughout the day: Make your family’s health a priority!
The day included dental screenings and fluoride treatments, and body mass index checks. Jena Health Department’s Holly VanHoozen was on hand to advise anyone with a health need, including how to find a doctor and make appointments for follow up care.
Within the community, health care often suffers due to a lack of health education — and a lack of trust in the healthcare system, according to Jena Choctaw Tribal Leader Cheryl Smith. She’s hoping events like this one will help stem the tide of rising blood pressure rates, diabetes and premature deaths among within the Choctaw family.
But there’s already good news to report! According to an article in the United South and Eastern Tribes Newsletter, written by Catherine Hollister, dental support center director for the area’s tribal community, efforts to promote good health “seem to be working.”
“East year, more participants report they have received regular preventive health services,” the article said. “Also, the ever-increasing number of participants year after year demonstrates that tribal members appreciate the health services and the strong sense of community created by the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians.”
Even the kiddies had wellness lessons tucked into their Easter baskets, which event organizers filled with healthy snacks and toys that encourage outdoor play (ie, exercise!).
The event was made possible through our Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana grant program, which awarded $1 million to support the community’s Live Lively LaSalle wellness program (a collaboration of 10 partners from the healthcare arena, non-profits and government in the LaSalle region). The Easter egg hunt is part of the project’s pledge to match our foundation’s funding with another $1 million in dollars and services, including community outreach and wellness education.