Challenge Grant

Louisiana has one of the nation’s highest obesity rates. Obesity increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, depression and other serious health problems — which increases our state’s healthcare costs.

Most experts agree that obesity is the result of an ongoing energy imbalance. It occurs when energy intake exceeds expenditure. Thus, physical activity and healthy eating are the keys to preventing obesity.

However, from a public health perspective, the problem is much more complex. At the individual level, behavior drives energy balance, but our environment shapes our decisions to be physically active or to eat right. Communities, neighborhoods, schools, homes and workplace environments can all influence our lifestyle choices. nations-highest-obesity-rate

Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana

That’s why, in 2011, our Foundation issued a challenge to nonprofits across the state: Team up with other organizations to build healthier communities, and we’ll provide the most innovative proposals with grants of up to $1 million — which have to be matched by other organizations involved in the project.

$27 million for 12 projects
In September 2012, we assembled an expert panel of local and national leaders in public health to select 12 nonprofit projects to receive $10.2 million in grants. These projects, bringing multiple organizations to the table, are creating broad community changes — from farmers markets to walking paths — that are fostering healthy lifestyles.

Our grants, in turn, sparked $16.8 million in matching funds from other community organizations, resulting in $27 million in targeted funding to improve the health of Louisiana communities.

Collective impact
The Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana, the first program of its kind in the state, uses a model called “Collective Impact” to create large-scale change.

Collective impact relies on strong, multi-sector partnerships, which are more likely to move the needle on social issues than any one organization could do alone.

In the Challenge Grant program, the grantees have formed multilevel partnerships — involving a range of public and private agencies — to address the root causes of obesity, change social norms and sustain healthier lifestyles in Louisiana communities.

Pennington partnership
To administer the grant program, we’re partnering with Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, known for its work in combating obesity. Pennington is helping to measure the effectiveness of the projects and monitor their progress.



“Measurable improvements in community health will take the concerted efforts of many different organizations and levels of government. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation’s Challenge Grant program is a major investment in the future of Louisiana, and it has the potential to make a real difference.”

—Peter Katzmarzyk, associate executive director for population science, Pennington Biomedical Research Center