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Released June 15, 2004


HATTIESBURG -- State health officer Dr. Brian Amy and Southern Miss President Dr. Shelby Thames today signed an agreement that will give researchers at the university access to data collected and archived by the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) for investigative and research purposes.

"Our mission at the Mississippi State Department of Health is to promote and protect the health of the citizens of Mississippi, and academic partners are crucial to carrying out that mission," Amy said.

The MSDH is following the national direction of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Association of Schools of Public Health, which are currently developing "academic health departments." This initiative is designed to merge academic pursuits with the service-delivery aspects of state health agencies.

"This relationship provides an important research arm to the Mississippi State Department of Health and will be utilized in developing and evaluating our future programs and activities," Amy said. "But more importantly, future graduates will be better armed to enter the health arena."

The MSDH administers more than 40 programs that collect data on health-related issues, ranging from infectious and chronic diseases to environmental health and regulatory issues. Southern Miss faculty and students will now have access to this data and can use it for teaching and research efforts. The data will be useful for educators and students in a wide range of disciplines, including behavioral science, GIS, nursing, community health, environmental health, genetics, exercise science, business and management, computer science, food and nutrition, education and communication.

The research presently conducted by Mitch Berman, associate professor and associate dean of the College of Education and Psychology, will be greatly impacted by the information now available through the MSDH. "Psychologists, along with other Southern Miss faculty, will find the partnership to be very beneficial and will give us access to data that will allow us to develop treatment interventions and determine new and innovative health solutions," Berman said.

Access to current data is an absolute necessity for quality research results, said Thames. "This is a win-win situation for Southern Miss and for the MSDH," he said. "We look forward to working more closely with them to learn more about and to help improve the health potentials of Mississippians."

This partnership between the MSDH and Southern Miss is only the second of its kind in Mississippi. The University of Mississippi Medical Center and the MSDH have a similar memorandum of understanding.


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June 21, 2004 1:02 PM