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Health District Master Plan

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation today released a master plan for the Health District, a prescription for a thriving but congested area where more health care assets will be under construction soon.

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Among its central recommendations are new roads and improved infrastructure to improve circulation, a four-year LSU medical school, a Diabetes and Obesity Center, and a new nonprofit to implement the plan itself.

The Foundation was asked to create a more detailed plan for the health corridor by the FuturEBR Implementation team, a group of government and civic leaders who are overseeing the implementation of the overarching growth plan for East Baton Rouge Parish. The corridor was chosen for more details because the area needs retrofitting to improve traffic on Bluebonnet, Perkins Road and Essen Lane, where health care assets are clustered and hundreds of millions in new buildings are planned, including a new Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital and an expansion of the Baton Rouge General’s Bluebonnet medical campus.

The Foundation paid for the $700,000 plan and created it in a collaboration with health care leaders, consultants and residents. On the planning team were top leaders of Baton Rouge General, OLOL, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, Ochsner Health Systems, Woman’s Hospital, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, LSU Health Sciences, and a number of clinics and specialty care providers, as well as decision-makers from local and state government.

Four key recommendations emerged from the plan.

1. Form an independent nonprofit to seek opportunities and implement the master plan. Health care leaders have taken this step by forming the Baton Rouge Health District. They are jointly funding operations and seeking the nonprofit’s first executive director.

2. Update and retrofit the infrastructure. Build new roads, sidewalks and paths to reduce traffic and offer transportation choices, while integrating parks to promote better health. Key recommendations include adding a new road, Midway Boulevard, between and parallel to Essen and Bluebonnet; extending Dijon Drive across Essen to Bluebonnet; rerouting Picardy Avenue; extending Kenilworth Parkway into the Health District; and building railroad underpasses so ambulances won’t have to wait for trains.

3. Open a four-year LSU medical school in Baton Rouge to match rising demand for physicians, while offering a unique curriculum that doesn’t compete with existing LSU medical schools in Shreveport and New Orleans. The Foundation has hired Tripp-Umbach to produce a feasibility and economic impact study for the medical school by summer 2016. Consultants are examining an engineering-based medical program that offers masters and doctoral degrees in bio-innovation and are researching innovative new funding sources.

4. Open a Diabetes and Obesity Center that conducts research and provides services, such as health checkups and monitoring, and nutrition and exercise advice.