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Foundation’s 2018 Symposium spotlighted factors that impact health
Tammy Moreau
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Foundation’s 2018 Symposium spotlighted factors that impact health

Focus of fifth annual Symposium was "Improving Health"

The Rapides Foundation held its fifth annual Symposium Thursday, September 6, with featured speaker Julie Willems Van Dijk introducing attendees to factors that impact health in a community, offering a snapshot of the region’s health data, and introducing tools that can be used to initiate change in the community. Willems Van Dijk is the director of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program.


Each year the Foundation presents the Symposium as a way to gather around a topic of importance and to recognize the creation of The Rapides Foundation on September 1, 1994. The focus of the 2018 Symposium was “Improving Health.” 


The Symposium presentation, “Improving Health for Everyone: What Can You Do?,” focused on the things that drive health, how to interpret health rankings data, and the steps that can be taken to advance health. The Rankings are guided by a model of population health that emphasizes the many social, economic, physical, clinical, and other factors that influence both how long and how well we live. They help communities understand the critical influence that education, jobs, income, environment, and other factors have on individual health and illuminate areas of need for focusing improvement efforts. 

Julie Willems Van Dijk, Director of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps Program

Julie Willems Van Dijk, Director of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps Program


“The model used by County Health Rankings & Roadmaps establishes health as life expectancy – living longer, free of disease,” said Joe Rosier, president and CEO of The Rapides Foundation. “The Foundation uses the same approach in support of our mission to improve the health status of Central Louisiana. Over its 24-year history, The Rapides Foundation has developed initiatives and strategies intended to positively impact the region for decades to come.”


The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program is a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The program releases annual rankings that measure vital health factors in nearly every county in America, which creates a starting point for change in communities. It also provides a roadmap through guidance and tools to understand a communities’ data, along with strategies communities can use to move into action. The program offers detailed data and tools on its website at 


As a way to prepare for the Symposium, The Rapides Foundation partnered with County Health Rankings & Roadmaps to have program coaches facilitate Community Conversation meetings in each of the nine parishes the Foundation serves. Those conversations led residents to identify issues they felt could be addressed to help improve health in their communities. A video capturing the conversations was introduced at the Symposium and can now be seen on the Foundation’s YouTube channel.

View Video on YouTube

The Rapides Foundation focuses its works in three strategic areas: Healthy People, to improve access to healthcare and promote healthy behaviors; Education, to increase the level of educational attainment and achievement as the primary path to improved economic, social and health status; and Healthy Communities, to improve economic opportunity and family income, and enhance civic and community opportunities for more effective leaders and organizations. Since the Foundation’s creation in 1994, it has disbursed more than $200 million in grants. The Rapides Foundation serves a nine-parish area in Central Louisiana consisting of Allen, Avoyelles, Catahoula, Grant, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Rapides, Vernon and Winn parishes.


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Media Contact

Tammy Moreau, Director of Communications
318-767-3004 (direct)

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