Paul Lacoste Sports is working hard to make Mississippi healthy. With programs springing up around the state, with the support of state government leaders, he is well on his way to impacting the healthcare of all Mississippi residents.
Paul Lacoste is the owner of Paul Lacoste Sports Inc. and is president and founding board member of the Victory Sports Foundation. He has been providing health programs to the state for the past 15 years in an effort to destroy obesity and related diseases. His programs often focus on a specific group, like Fit 4 Teaching for educators, but he is now offering programs to residents in towns he has not been in before.
Even Senator Brice Wiggins has seen success with the program, participating in Fit 4 Change in Jackson that Lacoste tailored to members of the legislature and statewide officials.
“The lifestyle of a legislator is not exactly healthy; a lot of sitting around in meetings and for votes among other things,” Wiggins said. “Doing the program countered that lifestyle and kept me focused.”
During this time, the two got to know each other and Lacoste reached out to Wiggins to let him know he had received a Families First grant through the Department of Human Services to expand the program to the rest of the state – beginning with Pascagoula. As vice chairman of the Public Health Committee and chairman of the Medicaid Committee, Wiggins said he has seen “the data and the policy of our unhealthiness as a state and what it costs to us as taxpayers,” so he jumped at the chance to help and began introducing Lacoste to others who might be interested.
They also met with local stakeholders, like representatives from Singing River Health System – as the program requires local hospital personnel and trainers to be involved for the health and health monitoring component. Wiggins also wanted to include Ocean Springs, but the construction on Ocean Springs stadium made that impossible at the time.
And so the program began in Pascagoula this summer, free of charge for participants due to the grant. And, the plan is to offer this free program for the next 25 to 30 years, with two new programs in two new communities every 12 weeks for the next few years. Lacoste said he wants to end up in every city in the state at some point.
“The federal and state government have taken notice of what we have been doing and what we were achieving through people’s hard work, discipline and motivation,” Lacoste said. “We want to help you and we want to be a part of your life. We just have to have that culture shift where we’re taking our health extremely serious.”
One of the reasons he wanted to start with Pascagoula, he said, is due to the 47 percent growth of obesity in Pascagoula as well as working against the opioid problem that is growing there. Through his programs, thousands and thousands of people have dropped huge amounts of weight and gotten healthier.
The program is also a way to impact Medicaid spending in Mississippi. “Medicaid is the single largest budget item in the state to the tune of $7 billion,” according to Wiggins. This spending is for the elderly and disabled but also for children and those with chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, that can be impacted by a healthy lifestyle.
“It’s simple: the healthier we are, the less need for Medicaid,” Wiggins said.
As the programs grow, Lacoste wants to remind everyone they don’t have to get in shape to start training with him. People are put into groups based on their personal fitness situation and work together as a team to improve.
“I encourage everyone to do it, for your own health, but also so that we as a state can become healthier, “ Wiggins said. “Everyone knows the statistics: we are last. Changing starts with our individual selves doing our part.”
Hank Zuber, state representative district 113 Ocean Springs, agreed that the program takes it to the next level and goes beyond what other programs do by focusing on one’s entire health: physical, spiritual and mental. He said the goal for the state is to reduce obesity and diabetes levels and save money state-wide on healthcare costs.
For more information on all of Lacoste’s programs and the next locations, visit paullacoste.com.