ROBINMAY_120411_5406
                                                                          Photo by Robin May
“The Living Lab Initiative will take all the existing
initiatives against obesity, add new technology and ideas,
and will give us a chance to really make a difference,” says
Geoff Daily, development director for the
Lafayette General Foundation.

The Living Lab Initiative aims to trim the fat.

Louisiana is fat. The Pelican State is perpetually ranked among the nation’s top 10 fattest — second only to Mississippi in 2012 with 33.4 percent of the population deemed obese, according to stats compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But fortunately the issue hasn’t fallen on deaf ears. It has, in fact, become the focus of an effort gaining momentum here in Lafayette called the Living Lab Initiative, which aims to turn the tide on Louisiana’s obesity epidemic.

The Living Lab Initiative was born in August 2011 through the Lafayette nonprofit FiberCorps. The idea, says FiberCorps founder Geoff Daily, is to combine existing local initiatives into a unified front against obesity.

A techie by trade, Daily says his involvement in the health care industry stems from his search for the best avenue for utilizing the full capabilities of fiber technology.

“Once an area has a fiber network, the question is what do you do with it next,” Daily says. “In Lafayette, we have the core infrastructure we need through LUS Fiber, so we decided to focus a lot of our energy on health care, because we thought that was the one area where we could really move the needle.”

Through the creation of a telemedicine clinic at Stuller Inc. and efforts like CampFiber for Healthcare — a series of community discussions focused on using fiber-powered technology to improve the area’s health care and obesity problems — Lafayette was chosen to be a pilot location for the Louisiana Health Information Exchange. Those developments eventually caught the attention of U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park.

In April, during CajunCodeFest 2012 (part of the inaugural INNOV8 Lafayette project), Park described Lafayette as “The best kept secret reservoir of innovation mojo in America.”

For Daily, one comment made by Park has stuck, primarily that Lafayette represents an area small enough to generate community participation to get the initiative going, but also big enough to have a national scale effect on the obesity epidemic.

“For us to move back the needle on childhood obesity, we have to have everyone working together,” says Daily, who recently was hired as development director for the Lafayette General Foundation, which raises funds and awareness to advance health care throughout Acadiana.

To show who will help in getting the Living Lab Initiative off the ground, Daily points to Lafayette’s Healthy Community Club, which consists of more than 20 local organizations that are already working together on the issue.

“The Living Lab Initiative will take all the existing initiatives against obesity, add new technology and ideas, and will give us a chance to really make a difference,” says Daily. “We haven’t defined yet the full scope of what this will look like, but one idea is to use venture philanthropy, or investing in companies to be created, that will help supercharge our effort to make Lafayette a hub of the health care industry.”

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