Recognizing Ruston as a hub for healthy living in Northern Louisiana

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RUSTON, La. (KNOE) - A statewide group is highlighting Ruston's commitment to healthy living. The Louisiana Healthy Communities Coalition (LHCC) chose to hold their annual meeting in Ruston because of the initiatives they've passed.

"We are number 50 out of 50 in our health outcomes, and that is the bottom of the barrel," says David Holcombe, Regional Administrative Medical Director for the Office of Public Health in Central Lousiana.

That's why the coalition says something has to be done to make citizens healthier.

"So we're learning from the city of Ruston," says Mack Giancola, Statewide Chair for the Louisiana Healthy Communities Coalition. "And we're learning from other mayors from across Louisiana about how they're making their communities healthy."

Thanks to Ruston's new sidewalks, a smoke-free downtown, and bike trails, the coalition picked this Lincoln Parish city to host.

"We want our citizens to be involved in everything that's going on," says Ronny Walker, Ruston's mayor. "But also we want them to be productive."

And the city is inspiring others to make changes too. The mayors of Jena and Haynesville were in town to learn from Ruston and find a way to bring these ideas to their own communities.

"Because you can always find something new that someone else is doing and you can exchange information about grants," says Jena mayor LaDawn Edwards.

"Right now in small towns, it's hard to have sidewalks even," says Beverlee Kilgore, Haynesville's mayor. "So you might have a place for them to go exercise, but they're going to have to walk down the middle of the street to get there."

That said, leaders say Monday is a step in the right direction. The coalition says they're working to make the state healthier one city at a time.

"We'd like to see a comprehensive smoke-free policy for the entire state, we don't want people smoking indoors anymore," says John O'Donnell, Networking Manager for LHCC. "We'd love to see more walkable communities, more bikable communities, and we'd love to see health systems that put a focus on chronic disease prevention."