United Way partners with Whole Health Louisiana to create a trauma-informed state plan for Louisiana

United Way of Southeast Louisiana commits financial support to WHL's efforts to prevent adverse childhood experiences for Louisiana's children 


NEW ORLEANS – United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) on Wednesday announced its investment in the Whole Health Louisiana (WHL) initiative – a multi-sector, statewide effort from First Lady Donna Edwards’ office to prevent childhood adversity and trauma and address the short- and long-term impacts of adversity and trauma on children, families and communities.  


Louisiana is ranked in the top 10 of the worst U.S. states with the highest per capita number of children (birth to 17 years) who have experienced two or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): 18.6% compared to the 14.0% U.S. average (National Survey of Children's Health, 2020-21). 


According to the FrameWorks Institute’s publication, Reframing Childhood Adversity: Promoting Upstream Approaches, “Children thrive when they have regular interactions with responsive, caring adults. Yet neglect is the most commonly reported form of child maltreatment, and it can have long-term effects on children’s health and development. Child neglect is more likely in families that are experiencing an overload of stress. The weight of poverty, especially, can overload parents’ abilities to provide the supportive relationships children need.” 


"Our United Way's mission to eradicate poverty is based on the understanding that in order to end poverty, we must treat the symptoms and root causes – many of which can be connected to the impacts of ACEs," said Charmaine Caccioppi, UWSELA EVP and Chief Operating Officer. "Supporting the Whole Health Louisiana initiative will give us a clear picture of the needs of our most vulnerable children and families, strategies to drive critical funding to partner programs and an opportunity to create more pathways to prosperity for generations to come." 


Development of a WHL state plan is the next step of the work to make Louisiana a trauma-informed state. WHL began in the summer of 2021 as an initiative of the First Lady’s Office with support from the Bureau of Family Health in the Louisiana Department of Health’s Office of Public Health and Dr. Paula Zeanah of the University of Louisiana Lafayette's Picard Center.  


“It is critical that we ensure the children of Louisiana have the comprehensive, coordinated supports they need to address adversity and trauma so they have the promise of a bright future,” said Louisiana First Lady Donna Edwards. “As a teacher and a mom, I am passionate about our children’s future and proud to lead the Whole Health Louisiana initiative with the support of state agencies and our partners. As we move forward, I am excited to see the work of local champions and leaders who can help shape initiatives, knowing what is best for their communities.” 


UWSELA committed $77,400 to support WHL's five-year implementation utilizing a collective impact model, which will build bridges between non-traditional partners, shift mental models about conflict and healing, measure the progress of complex work and facilitate communication with systems leaders and highly-impacted communities.  


“The Whole Health Louisiana initiative holds the potential to positively impact some of our youngest and most vulnerable Louisiana residents, now, and for generations to come as we work to address childhood trauma,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Courtney N. Phillips. “In order to effect change, we must work together, and we have the great benefit of Governor John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards leading the way with this initiative. I also appreciate the collaboration with United Way of Southeast Louisiana, as we need every voice coming together to create the best possible path for Louisiana children and families impacted by trauma.” 


To begin developing its plan, the WHL team surveyed parents, community members and service providers to gather feedback around the following statewide priorities aimed at preventing, intervening and healing childhood adversity, trauma and toxic stress in Louisiana youth:  

  • Increased number of service providers offering trauma-informed or trauma-focused services or treatments. 

  • Increased access to childhood adversity or trauma-informed training across all family- and child-serving providers. 

  • Campaign to increase messaging and education about childhood adversity to the public. 

  • Better collaboration between services for more holistic care. 

  • Decreased stigma around mental health and trauma. 

  • Improved environmental factors that have caused adversity for children (e.g., poverty, discrimination, unstable housing). 


WHL and partners will release the final plan in November 2023 based on findings from across the state to align priorities and guide stakeholders in developing strategies to build stronger, brighter, trauma-free futures for all Louisiana children.  


Visit ldh.la.gov/page/WholeHealthLouisiana to learn more about Whole Health Louisiana.  




About United Way of Southeast Louisiana 

For nearly 100 years, United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) has been a leader and trusted partner in improving lives and making a lasting difference. We fight to eradicate poverty by preparing people for quality jobs, growing incomes, and affording better health and education opportunities throughout Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes. We have a bold vision of equitable communities where all individuals are healthy, educated, and financially stable – and we have a plan. United Way of Southeast Louisiana's Blueprint for Prosperity guides all strategic investments in programs, initiatives, collaborations, volunteerism, and advocacy aimed at tackling poverty. For more information, please visit UnitedWaySELA.org. Find us on social: @UnitedWaySELA.  


About Whole Health Louisiana 

Whole Health Louisiana is an initiative to create a trauma-informed state plan that is responsive to the needs and prosperity of Louisiana’s children and families. The plan is intended to be adopted and implemented by child- and family-serving entities across the state in an effort to improve health and safety outcomes for all Louisianans. The initiative was introduced and is championed by First Lady Donna Edwards’ Louisiana First Foundation and is being coordinated by the Louisiana Department of Health through its Office of Public Health’s Bureau of Family Health.