The long-term health consequences of food insecurity after hurricanes and pandemics

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) – Food insecurity affects millions of people in the United States, including many here in the capital region. The American Heart Association said the recovery from the pandemic and hurricane only exacerbated this problem, leading to increased hunger and poor nutrition.

The American Heart Association of the Capital Region is working to raise awareness of this issue. Dr. Tiffany Ardoin, president-elect of the American Heart Association board of the metropolitan area and assistant professor of clinical medicine at LSU Health Baton Rouge, said many food insecure households cannot get enough food due to lack of money or other resources.

She said with the impact COVID-19 and now two severe hurricane seasons have had on our region, one in three people in Greater Baton Rouge is not getting enough food every day. This also includes not getting the nutrients they need, which is known as food insecurity.

“This is really important in Baton Rouge because food insecurity is 13% above the national average and is only becoming a higher percentage, especially after COVID-19 and the recent hurricanes,” said Ardoin. “Food insecurity is directly related to high blood pressure and diabetes.”

Without access to affordable healthy food, nutritious diets and good health are out of reach for many in our community. As a result, diet-related diseases such as diabetes and obesity in children are on the rise.

Ardoin said the stress of food insecurity is only a risk factor. In the Baton Rouge area, more than 79% of adults over 18 consume fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

A scientific statement from the American Heart Association published earlier this year states that the stress of food insecurity can contribute to poor health behaviors such as smoking, poor diet, and physical inactivity, which is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Financial barriers to medical care mean that many people with food insecurity are often diagnosed much later, when the disease may have advanced.

The AHA is urgently working to build equitable health and improve food security by partnering with the Mayor of East Baton Rouge’s Mayor’s Healthy City Initiative (HealthyBR) to create the Geaux Get Healthy initiative.

The Geaux Get Healthy initiative improves community access to healthy and affordable food by influencing the orientation of the Desert Destroyer (mobile market) and Top Box (grocery delivery / corner shops) towards the areas of greatest need. This affects around 30,000 households as it improves access to fresh food at an affordable price for people with financial and transport barriers.

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