The state just received another report card from the Mississippi State Medical Association and the Mississippi Department of Health, and unfortunately it looks a lot like report cards from the past four years running – a big fat “F.” As hard as we might look to applaud signs of improvement here and there, the facts are cold and daunting – Mississippi retains the worst ranking in the country on the critical indicators of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease mortality, infant mortality, teen birth rate, and physician access.
It just doesn’t do any good either to deny reality or to get huffy about how we’re “tired of everybody looking down on Mississippi.” Pulling ourselves out of the deep health hole we’ve dug ourselves into is going to require taking a seat squarely on a new three-legged stool – (1) a real commitment and shift to the disease prevention and health promotion paradigm; (2) a comprehensive strategic plan that incorporates new public policies, and doesn’t rely on the easy dodge of laying the blame on “personal responsibility”; and (3) serious, long-term investment in the implementation of evidence-based measures that work.
“It would be nice to get us off the bottom,” says our hard-working state health officer, Dr. Mary Currier, whose Department of Health is grossly underfunded. If only wishing could make it so! As Dr. Currier knows only too well, moving the needle for Mississippi is going to take an enormous amount of (properly focused) work, and not an inconsiderable investment of resources.