Morehouse Parish Schools will be implementing a new program to help increase the wellness levels of both employees and students.

The program, Well-Ahead, is a statewide initiative of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals aimed at promoting good health in residents of Louisiana.

In a recent survey, Louisiana was ranked 49th in overall health and 50th in obesity rates.

Morehouse Parish School Board Child Nutrition Supervisor April Temple said the program will help combat issues such as diabetes, obesity, smoking and lack of exercise.

"We recently updated our wellness policy guidelines at the school board to be healthier," she said. "Next year we look forward to starting student-led wellness committees in every school. We plan to involve our parents and teachers, too."

Well-Ahead Representative Denise Breard met with the MPSB administration on Thursday to discuss implementing wellness committees.

The administration learned about the new program and discussed future plans centered on student involvement at the schools.

"Principals and administration are getting involved and will begin implementing these wellness committees next year at our schools," Temple said. "Students will come up with ideas on how to make healthier choices in their daily lives."

"Small changes can make a big impact," she said. "We want to formulate ways to help improve each school individually for better health in the future. Starting with students in schools can translate into healthier adults. We want to help them understand why good health and wellness is important."

The program helps to create "WellSpots," which are voluntary changes that make it easier for students and teachers to make healthier choices. Schools will aim to meet certain benchmarks in order to reach the highest level of achievement. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals will recognize the schools as an official WellSpot. There are three levels to be achieved and Level 1 is the highest. The school board began the program first and was recently recognized as a Level 2 Wellspot.

"Currently the schools are at Level 3, but we are setting new goals to hopefully raise the wellness level next year," Temple said.

There are health assessments that the schools can complete to raise the standard level, and the created wellness policies will also help as well, she said.

According to the Well-Ahead website, WellSpots will help create a more productive place for schools and offices and will help reduce health care costs caused by poor health choices.

For more information on the Well-Ahead program, visit the website at WellAheadLA.com.