Denise M. Holston
To help address the epidemic of obesity in Louisiana, the chancellor of the LSU AgCenter, Bill Richardson, started a blog in October 2007 to document his experiences in making a commitment to a healthy lifestyle. In the daily Monday-through-Friday blog, known as the Chancellor’s Challenge, he used educational information and recommendations that the LSU AgCenter espouses to the residents of Louisiana.
While an improvement in his overall health was important, the chancellor also wanted to be a role model for others to make positives changes in their lifestyle. Additionally, he felt it was important to stress the use of agricultural products – primarily those grown in Louisiana. In the Chancellor’s Challenge, Richardson wrote about the triumphs and trials he encountered in his journey to overall wellness. The blog was popular, with an average of more than 1,000 page views per month. One reason was its humorous undertone with entries like, “The Gut Stops Here,” “Omega-3 from the Sea,” “Go Slow and Whoa,” and “I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Grain.” Serious topics such as prostate cancer, sleep deprivation and bone health were covered throughout the series.
Nearly all of the blog entries were followed by advice from one of the Ag challengeCenter’s experts. The responses provided practical, science-based information for Louisiana citizens to use in their own quest for a healthy lifestyle. All the blogs included links to more information.
Additionally, the chancellor wrote about the monthly assessments of his blood pressure, total cholesterol, high- and low-density lipoproteins, triglycerides, body weight, body mass index and other measurements to serve as a gauge of his progress.
To highlight wellness efforts and regimens of others, the Chancellor’s Challenge also included blogs from guests such as the mayors from Baton Rouge and Oklahoma City, legislators, television personalities, registered dietitians and AgCenter employees.
The Chancellor’s Challenge spawned several other health initiatives in the LSU AgCenter. Shortly after the blog was launched in October, the chancellor formed a wellness committee to plan and execute an employee wellness initiative. It started with regional kick-offs and a “Healthy Lifestyles Challenge,” in which employees competed in teams to meet fitness and nutrition goals. Additionally, the employee wellness initiative includes other activities and learning opportunities such as “Lunch and Learn,” where LSU AgCenter nutrition agents teach lessons from the Smart Portions and Smart Choices programs. These sessions are broadcast via the Internet to AgCenter facilities across the state so all AgCenter employees can participate. Even though the daily blog written by the chancellor stopped in October 2008, the wellness initiative continues.
Denise M. Holston, Instructor; Heli J. Roy, Associate Professor; Beth Reames, Professor; and Michael Zanovec, Research Associate, School of Human Ecology, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, La.
(This article was published in the fall 2008 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)