The University of Southern Mississippi will host a seminar on community programs proven to increase healthy lifestyle participation and lower illnesses associated with improper diet and exercise on Feb. 6 at Delta State University.
The event, “Building on Strengths: Using Community Resources to Create Healthy Communities,” will be held at the university’s H.L. Nowell Union-State Room as part of the series “A Step Towards Health: Reducing Health Disparities Among African Americans.” The series is funded by the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities and presented by the Department of Nutrition and Food Systems and the Southern Mississippi Area Health Education Center.
"Addressing health disparities and improving the health of all Mississippians requires the efforts of many of us working together," said Dr. Kathy Yadrick, Department of Nutrition and Food Systems chair in the College of Health at Southern Miss. "The model programs highlighted in this conference experienced success, because they involved many different stakeholders in communities like those throughout our Delta region."
Three additional seminars are scheduled for April 22 at Jackson Medical Mall and June 26 and Sept. 30 at Southern Miss in Hattiesburg.
Mississippi residents are ranked as the nation's unhealthiest with the highest rate of obesity, infant mortality, high percentages of adult diabetes and tobacco use, according to a recent report by the state Department of Health and the Mississippi State Medical Association.
Such somber news makes community action even more vital in hopes of raising Mississippi health standards. Seminar speaker Carol Rogers, a registered nurse with Amory School District, has experienced success in building programs that are fun and engaging for children, while battling the obesity problem at the same time. Rogers will discuss how Amory Middle School students, teachers and parents worked together to end poor nutrition habits, eventually earning them the title of 2008 healthiest middle in the nation by Health Magazine.
"With the major focus being childhood obesity in the state, we're going to go out there and do what we can to solve this problem," Rogers said. "At this conference, we will discuss what has worked in our school district, and what has not. For example, we have identified some family-based projects and technology programs that seem to have better success among students."
Rogers said her middle school uses a physical education program that features a large wall screen to engage students in activities like kickboxing, pilates and dance aerobics. Students simultaneously participate in the exercises, each equipped with their own game mat. Another program is Supper at School, where families are invited to the school cafeteria one evening a week for a free dinner and learn nutritional tips.
Studies show children who rarely have family dinners are three-and-a-half times more likely to abuse prescription or illegal drugs, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
"We found some parents who said this was their only time to eat with their family," Rogers said. "That was a rude awakening."
“Building on Strengths: Using Community Resources to Create Healthy Communities” schedule is as follows:
• 9 a.m. - Howard Sanders, executive director of the Hollandale Early Head Start Program
• 9:15 a.m. - Dr. Judith Weber with Arkansas Children’s Hospital: "Community-Partnered Physical Activity Programs in Rural Worksites"
• 10:30 a.m. - Panel speakers: "Creating community resources and programs to improve health and fitness of adults and children: Castlewood Park, Fit For Life Steps, and SNAP (Summer Nutrition and Athletic Program) for kids"
• 12:45 p.m. - Eddie Craddieth with the American Heart Association: "Search Your Heart"
• 2 p.m. - Carol Rogers with Amory School District: "Not Enough Muffins, Cookies, or Cupcakes"
• 3 p.m. - Interactive assessment of lessons learned and future plans
For more information or to register for the event, call 601.266.4839 or e-mail
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.