A movement to improve the health of West Feliciana residents has led to heightened green spaces at two neighborhood parks and equipment to encourage play, exercise and family engagement.

A Solitude Healthy Communities Forum to discuss next steps and listen to resident suggestions starts at 6 p.m. Thursday at Galilee Baptist Church.

Layne Langley, nutrition agent with the LSU Ag Center, said the Healthy Community Coalitions and Policy, Systems and Environmental Change are a national initiative introduced into the parish in 2017 when grant funding was secured to develop wellness projects.

“West Feliciana was selected because high obesity rates designated it as a Healthy Communities Parish,” Langley said. “A group was formed that identified two areas in the parish that needed some green space. We then took a look at the community in respects to physical activity, nutrition, community needs and any barriers.”

The pandemic and staffing changes caused delays, but two locations — the Turner Subdivision in Solitude and the West Feliciana Community Center in Independence — were equipped with playground and park equipment funded by a $30,000 grant.

“We have picnic tables, nice playground areas, nice big shade structures. We’ve also added some grills, and laid a slab for a basketball court,” Langley said. “Now I want to see, how do we progress? What do we do next? What are the thoughts, the concerns?”

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Langley hopes she can be a facilitator and help residents plan and execute similar activities. “The goal of this meeting is to learn from people in the community about the needs and concerns related to health in Solitude,” she said. West Feliciana Parish ranks ninth in health outcomes in the state. This leads to a high number of deaths related to chronic disease that are tied to poor diets and a lack of physical activity.

The meeting time will be used to prioritize a list of issues related to health that create roadblocks in the path of a healthy community. Langley hopes to develop more services like those used in her direct delivery and education roles across the parish.

“We have school gardens that teach students about farming, so we were planning and harvesting and tasting,” she said. “That all ties into being a healthy community.”

Another program is a nutrition series. Most recently, it focused on high blood pressure. Next, it will be “Dining with Diabetes.”

The public is invited to the Solitude Healthy Communities Forum at Galilee Baptist Church, located at 7022 CR-563 in St. Francisville. To RSVP or for more information, contact Langley at (225) 635-3614 or email her at [email protected].

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