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Posted March 27, 2020

By LSUHSC School of Public Health-Behavioral Health and Community Sciences and the Center for Evidence to Practice

MENTAL HEALTH PROMOTION

The 10 Tools

These tools can help you feel stronger and more hopeful.

  • CONNECT WITH OTHERS (Fight stress with friendship. Learn how to strengthen old bonds and build new ones. Physical distance does not equal social distance. Use those social tools…phone, internet, social media, etc. Resiliency thrives on connection.)
  • STAY POSITIVE (Changing your thinking can change your life. Take steps to increase your optimism. In every crisis there is both threat AND opportunity. You have survived 100% of your worst life moments to date!)
  • GET PHYSICALLY ACTIVE (Exercise can make you happier. Get active, and that doesn’t require a gym. Walk, ideally outside with some space, but even around your apartment or home will count. Yoga doesn’t require much space. Check out the 7-minute workout…no weights required- just you. Remember to get up and move.)
  • HELP OTHERS (Getting beyond yourself helps most people feel better about their purpose and contribution to society. It often is a great way to fight depression. Volunteer… If you have to go out, then pick up something for someone in need, call those that may be isolated, send a care package, etc.)
  • GET ENOUGH SLEEP (Being tired can hurt your health, your mental health, and your relationships. Have a nighttime routine that helps your mind and body know it’s time to shut down. Turn off screens and lights. Take advantage of the shorter commute if you are working remotely and sleep a little later, but don’t work from your bed. Keep that that space for sleep so your brain knows the difference.)
  • CREATE JOY AND SATISFACTION (Feeling good is good for you, so have a laugh, find a hobby, or just kick back. Spring cleaning can help you feel better. Box stuff up for those in need when this passes, and give yourself a sense of accomplishment as you
  • EAT WELL (When physically distancing, the fridge can be all too close. Limit your focus on eating. Binge eating and drinking can be a threat right now. On the other hand, the right foods can fuel your mind, boost your mood and fight disease. Focus on lower carbs, drink lots of water, eat more nuts, get fruits and vegetables if you are able. Fresh is best, followed by frozen and then canned … just watch the calorie count and carbs.)
  • TAKE CARE OF YOUR SPIRIT (Praying, meditating, or connecting with something deep within yourself, or outside of yourself, can enrich your life. There are many groups online and via apps promoting mindfulness, community prayer, and options for meditation.)
  • DEAL BETTER WITH HARD TIMES (Think of the ways you have learned to cope through past threats. Can any of those options apply to this situation? Ask others what they are doing to cope…learn from other’s success. You don’t have to figure all this out on your own. Step away from constant bad news. Your mind and spirit need a break. Look for what is working in the world and not just the problems. There is good news out there…purposely find it.)
  • GET PROFESSIONAL HELP IF YOU NEED IT (More resilient people and groups don’t hesitate to seek professional help. The healthcare and mental healthcare systems are still available. Creative methods such as telehealth, telemedicine, crisis lines and warm lines have expanded and are available. Don’t ignore your health. It is one of your best resources.)

Click here to download this resource


Posted March 20, 2020

Healthy Tips for Families Social Distancing at Home

By Healthier Together, Authors, Sothern, M., Schumacher, H., and Von Almen, TK, Trim Kids: The Proven 12-week Plan that has Helped Thousands of Children Achieve a Healthier Weight (Harper Collins, 2001, NY, NY); www.lsuhsc.edu

  1.  Set up a daily food, fitness and schoolwork schedule: Start with a healthy breakfast before beginning remote schooling and schedule at least 15 minutes of morning physical activity followed by a healthy snack to break up schoolwork. Do the same in the afternoon. Before you know it, it will be time for dinner followed by a family walk and then your favorite TV show or online series.
  2. Send children outside often: Outdoor physical activity promotes not only physical health, but it improves mood and lowers the risk for developing depression. Also, sunshine promotes vitamin D production. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to obesity, chronic disease, and depression.
  3. Eat, Stay (home), Love: Link to family and friends remotely:  Schedule remote (e.g. skype, zoom, face time, etc.) cooking time with family members and friends not living in your household at least once per week. Reach out to a distant family member, friend or colleague daily and share ideas for staying healthy such as new recipes and links to the latest online fitness workouts.
  4. Get them involved. Have children select one new fruit and vegetable to try each week. Include children in lunch and dinner preparation. Cooking as a family is a great way to pass on family traditions.
  5. Reinstate family traditions. Insist on family dinners, set the table with real cloth napkins, battery-operated candles and play soft music in the background to encourage discussion. Compliment the children on their healthy food selections, cooking and manners. Dining as a family is associated with lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  6. Take advantage of “teachable” moments. Select one frozen, canned or boxed food item from the pantry each week to spend a few extra minutes reading labels with your children. That “juice” drink may have more calories and sugar than the soda—point this out and encourage healthier choices like low fat milk, veggie juice or sparkling water. Do the same with snack foods—-low fat does not always mean low calorie or low sugar. A simple rule is <15 grams of sugar per serving.
  7. When meat, poultry and seafood are scarce: Add nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, etc.) and beans (freshly cooked, frozen, or canned and rinsed) to salads, cooked vegetables, whole grain rice or pasta and casseroles. This is a great way to maintain adequate protein in the family’s diet.
  8. Set a “food bedtime.” After 8:00 is too late. Discourage snacking after dinner so children will be hungry when they wake up. Plan a healthy breakfast the night before.
  9. Insist on healthy breakfast: Breakfast consumption is an important factor in nutrition health, especially during growth stages. Children who eat breakfast have superior nutritional profiles when compared to those who skip breakfast. Children who eat breakfast have improved cognitive function related to memory, test grades, school attendance, and overall well-being. They are also less irritable and are better able to solve problems and concentrate.
  10. Give kids healthy drinks and snacks. Give your children water when they are thirsty, not high sugar beverages such as sodas. Try fresh fruit with yogurt dip, air-popped popcorn, nuts, raisins, veggie chips or cut up veggies with reduced fat dip or peanut butter. On pizza day, make a homemade veggie version with cauliflower crust and reduced fat cheese.
  11. Re-direct and give choices. When your child asks for an unhealthy snack, re-direct and give choices, “Do you want strawberries, carrots or melon for your snack?” Notice cookies are not in the list of choices. When your children are “vegging out” in front of the TV ask, “Would you like to go outside and play, vacuum the house, or tidy your room? If you let them, they will play!
  12. Activity helps them focus.  Let children have 15-20 minute physical activity breaks in the morning and again after lunch, like riding bikes, walking the dog, skateboarding or shooting hoops. Afterwards he or she will concentrate better on studies.
  13. Have fun inside the home. Create a physical activity center with safe, indoor active toys and games in the corner of the family room. Call it an “imagination station” and include foam balls, jump ropes, scarves, hats, and old dress up clothes. Replace the bedroom TV and hand-held computer games with interactive physically active computer gaming.
  14. Location, location, location.  Discourage eating in front of the TV, computer or hand held device and gradually restrict all eating and drinking (except water) to the kitchen counter, table or dining room. Not only will your home be cleaner, but studies show that children eat more when engaging in screen time.
  15. Make them strong.  Let young children safely climb, run and jump to help develop muscle strength and bone building. Older children will enjoy strength training using weights with parents’ supervision.
  16. Realize their limitations. Young children are best suited for short bursts of intermittent active play like skipping, jumping, tag games — so be careful not to impose adult exercise goals, programs or equipment.
  17. Take breaks. Insist that your children take a 5-minute physical activity break every 30 minutes of TV, computer, cell phone and even school work. Movement improves blood flow to all parts of the body, enhances learning ability and reduces mental fatigue.
  18. Be a role model. Active parents have active children. Increase weekend physical activity by dedicating at least one-half day to outdoor family fun. Fill a tub with balls, jump ropes, racquets and other items that encourage yard games. Go for a family bike ride, inline skate, walk or spend time together cooking and dining outdoors.

Stop the nagging. Don’t draw attention to negative behaviors. Rather, spend your energy praising your children when they choose healthy foods or physical activity, and ensure the environment sets them up for healthy eating and plenty of opportunities to be active indoors and out.

Dr. Melinda Sothern, is faculty in Behavioral and Community Health, LSU School of Public Health