As promised, I’m writing today to briefly recap our first annual convening, which took place on May 30-31 in Baton Rouge. We had more than 150 partners represented over the two days – and there were many powerful moments listening to passionate, committed people from around the state sharing the stories and lessons of their lifesaving work.

If there was a theme to our meeting, it was this: there are programs and organizations in Louisiana making significant changes to improve our health. And these ideas can be adapted or collaborated with to have even more impact across the state. As an ecosystem, we are eager to learn from each other, and join forces to overcome barriers to change. I remain hopeful that the relationships built at our convening can help to make that change a reality.

Below is a very high-level rundown of all of the presentations.  If you’re interested, you can download all of the slides presented here.

  • Introduction – We started with a brief presentation on the state of philanthropy as it relates to Louisiana’s health. Since 1995, the amount of private charitable donations to nonprofits – including those working in health and education – has tripled. And yet, we remain consistently near last in quality of life metrics. We discussed how barriers to change reinforce themselves and what it takes to interrupt that cycle.
  • NELA Nursing Adjunct Faculty Project, presented by Terri Mitchell of Workforce Development Board 83 – Terri presented on a very successful initiative in in northeast Louisiana. Hospitals and training facilities are collaborating to solve a critical shortage of nurses. By sharing data they identified the root of the problem and then by sharing adjunct faculty and offering clinical supervision at nontraditional hours, this collaborative will train 180 additional nurses over the term of their grant project.
  • Beacon Community Connections, presented by Cian Robinson and Dylan Norris – In Acadiana, a community initiative is providing care navigation for patients admitted to Lafayette area emergency rooms. The pilot program – which connected patients in need with food, housing, transportation and other services – provided lifesaving services, reduced hospital readmission rates, and saved millions of dollars.
  • The Health and Education Alliance of Louisiana, presented by Connie Bellone – To date, HEAL has helped more than 54,000 Louisiana students receive health screenings and services in schools – which has drastically improved attendance and academic achievement. Connie discussed how schools can access Medicaid dollars to provide these services to their students and how Louisiana still leaves millions unclaimed to provide these supports to kids.
  • Blue Zones, presented by Nick Buettner – Nick presented on a worldwide study of places where people live longer, happier, healthier lives – places known as “Blue Zones.” In addition to the secrets of longevity, Nick presented on communities who have invested in the longevity of their citizens. You can watch a video summary of Blue Zones here. American communities are taking the lessons learned from Blue Zones and adapting it to their needs and the Blue Zones team is interested in partnering with any Louisiana communities who might be interested.


In the afternoon, we heard 15-minute presentations from current Foundation grantees who we believe are showing great promise, including:

  • James Storehouse’s Open Table Initiative, presented by Kim Bigler – Kim shared the Open Table model, which builds a “family” of ten community supporters, generally drawn from churches, who walk with a transitioning foster youth for a year to ensure they have a table of supporters when they do age out of foster care.
  • Sista Midwife Productions, presented by Nicole Deggins – Nicole shared about the beginnings of a statewide initiative to train culturally competent, community-based perinatal health workers to advocate for and support pregnant women and disrupt a pattern of negative outcomes disproportionately afflicting women of color.
  • Family to Family Support Network, presented by Janelle Ison – Janelle discussed an initiative to provide neutral compassionate care to women facing unexpected pregnancies, relieving stresses and trauma that can affect prenatal health. By providing resources and training early and effectively, parents an children have dramatically better outcomes.
  • Screening for Life, presented by Roxanne Smith – Roxanne presented an initiative of University of Louisiana at Monroe to provide preventative health screenings in some of Louisiana’s most rural corridors. By leveraging individuals training in healthcare and community organizations such as churches, Screening for Life can both screen and create a capacity for ongoing screenings which can route those in need of care to doctors when they need them.

To close out the day, I briefly presented some lessons-learned from the last few years, as well as places we’d like to see additional progress across the state, including healthcare human capital, the opioid crisis, supporting mothers and families, and opportunities in the Houma/Bayou Region and the Lake Charles/Southwest region.

We hosted our meeting not just to connect folks, but to start conversations that hopefully lead to partnerships, which we know can lead to progress on some of our state’s most pressing issues. If you want to start a conversation, please know that the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation is here to be a part. I’d love to hear from you.


-Michael Tipton
BCBSLA Foundation President and Head of Community Relations

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