BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Health officials say COVID-19 has intensified issues like mental health and food insecurity in the Capital Area. Now, Southern University and the Louisiana Department of Health are partnering to spread knowledge about healthy living.

“I always say that a person’s zip code is more important than their genetics because where someone lives shouldn’t determine whether they live,” said Dr. Sandra Brown, dean of the College of Nursing at Southern University.

Blacks remain the least healthy ethnic group in the United States, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. Executive Director and licensed psychologist Dr. ValaRay Irvin said there are many reasons that contribute to that.

“So this is a visual of how many of us are dealing with diagnosable mental illnesses and not getting a lot of assistance,” said Dr. Irvin.

Things like accessibility, affordability, and patient preference all play a part in those numbers. Doctors and psychologists said that it is a proven fact that Black communities lack healthy food options and safe activities.

“Where people live, what they eat, do they have access to neighborhood grocery stores and parks and all of these go into play to helping these individuals to live healthier lives,” explained Dr. Brown.

Everyone agreed that it will not change overnight but workshops like this and the community putting in the work together will make a difference.

“We constantly need to receive over and over so that people can sort of imprint it on their brains and actually begin to utilize some of the strategies and tips,” said Dr. Irvin.

The workshop will continue Thursday and in the following weeks. You can register to attend here.