When Bradley Cruice worked as Director of Health and Wellness with the Lafayette Parish Public School System from 2012 to 2015, he was shocked to learn that one-half of middle school students in the parish tested as overweight or obese. Bradley’s insight became the genesis of what is now known as “Healthy Acadiana,” a movement he chairs and is made possible by the financial support of Women’s Foundation which has supported its mission to “build a healthier Acadiana by providing improved social, economic, and physical environmental factors that contribute to a healthier mind, body, and spirit for Acadiana residents.“
Bradley compares Healthy Acadiana to a “Health Improvement Chamber of Commerce,” bringing together like minds, programs, and missions to improve the health of our community. Supportive members include such diverse organizations such as Acadian Ambulance, Stuller, Inc., the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living, and Women’s Foundation.
Healthy Acadiana has three focuses: (1) Physical Activity- which gets people moving; (2) Healthy Eating – increasing access to healthy food options; and (3) Systems, Policies, and Environment – creating an environment which makes physical activity and healthy eating a reality.
Healthy Acadiana’s partners gathered more than 1500 pounds of healthy foods for donation to local food pantries this November. With a focus on whole food choices containing low salt and sugar, such as brown rice and beans, recipients will be given choices that nourish their body in lieu of receiving stale pop tarts and ramen noodles from the back of donor’s pantries. #Donate Healthy
Lafayette Parish ranks fourth in health rankings in Louisiana, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which sets the benchmark relied upon by Healthy Acadiana. RWJF’s mission is to improve health and health care in America, especially for those most in need, and its work to encourage a better quality of life for all citizens takes a proactive approach to keeping all of us healthy in the first place so as to avoid negative health outcomes. This mission is especially critical for the health of Louisiana residents, as the state consistently ranks at the bottom of health rankings. As Bradley put it, “Lafayette Parish is the winner in the loser’s bracket; we rank fourth in the state which is the one of the worst in the country.” The rankings look at the quality of life as well as the length of life: how long will you live as well as how well will you live while you’re here? If you’re hanging on to life, but stuck inside with no quality of life, what kind of life is that?
Two things Bradley encourages everyone to do to maintain good health is to (1) incorporate physical activity into your daily life, such as taking the stairs, walk during your work meetings instead of going out to eat, and doing your own chores such as cutting the grass and washing your car to make healthier food choices; and (2) make healthier food choices which limit carbohydrates and added sugar and salt.
“If we know better, we can give better. Don’t give expired foods, but make choices about what you choose to donate consciously so that you can give nutrient-dense foods.” Bradley Cruice
There is an easy mnemonic to help you remember healthy choices to make every day: “5210,” which breaks down to five fresh fruits and vegetables a day (and can include frozen foods which don’t include added sugar or salt); two hours or less of screen time; one hour of physical activity; and zero sugary drinks.
Given Louisiana’s renowned joie de vivre and zest for eating and drinking, Bradley stressed the goal is not to change the culture, but to temper our choices with healthier options. His aim is to educate people that you can enjoy jambalaya with brown rice and leaner sausage, and outdoor festivals and parades don’t need to center around a drinking culture. 20% of Louisiana’s adult population drinks excessively as compared to the average of 10% of adults in other states in the U. S. We also experience more than two times the average number of alcoholic related fatalities on our roads. By encouraging organizers to offer healthier drink options with a lesser focus on imbibing alcohol, everyone in Louisiana will be better off.
Healthy employees benefit a business’s bottom line and the overall health of our community is of interest to potential employers looking for sites to establish their corporate headquarters. Businesses who want to incorporate best practices into their work environments should know that happy and healthy employees will always result in reduced health care costs and higher productivity. Bradley recommends that businesses visit Well Ahead Louisiana for ways they can voluntarily improve the health and wellness of their employees and families. An initiative of the Louisiana Department of Health, its guidelines provide a crucial first step to lifting Louisiana out of its perennial last-place finish in overall health rankings in the U. S.
Oschner is an active partner with Healthy Acadiana, and well-known dietician Yvette Quantz is Oschner’s local rep for the organization. Oschner’s Eat Fit Acadiana site lists local restaurants that offer healthy options, including Zea, Tsunami, Taco Sisters, Cafe Vermilionville, Izzo’s, Hub City Diner, Good Eats Kitchen, Deano’s Pizza, Antoni’s, Roly Poly, and many more.
Bradley will be opening up Handy Stop Market & Cafe in downtown Lafayette in early Spring 2020. The market will be located at 444 Jefferson and his focus will be on serving healthy and convenient foods to the approximately 5 – 7,000 people who find themselves downtown daily for work, worship and shopping. Fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins such as tuna, shrimp and salmon, salads, sandwiches, and healthy drinks will be offered along with fresh flowers.
Bradley Cruice will open Handy Stop Market & Cafe at 444 Jefferson Street in downtown Lafayette in early Spring 2020. Fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, salads, and sandwiches will be offered along with fresh flowers.