Mike Forster, dean of the College of Health at The University of Southern Mississippi summed up the significance of the recently completed Public Health Symposium with a succinct, yet profound, declaration.
“No state needs to focus on health more than Mississippi,” said Forster.
And that prevailing sentiment served as the unifying backdrop for the 5th Annual Public Health Symposium held Wednesday, Sept. 29 at the Thad Cochran Center on the Southern Miss campus. Health professionals across a wide spectrum of fields converged to hear discussions about issues affecting the health and well-being of Mississippi residents.
Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier, whose office oversees 2,300 state employees and another 600 contract workers, used a Power-Point presentation to illustrate the alarming number of areas in which Mississippi continues to rank first nationally. Chief among those: heart disease, obesity, infant mortality and teen birth rate.
“Symposiums such as this are very important in terms of getting the word out about public health,” said Currier. “It’s so important for people to know what they can do themselves to help prevent particular diseases such as obesity. Knowing how to cook food properly and which health screenings are most appropriate.
“One of our primary goals is to change behavior among the citizens in our state and that’s a difficult task. To get people to consider baked fish, instead of fried fish and look for sidewalks or walking trails in certain neighborhoods when they’re considering the purchase of a new home. It’s about trying to change a culture and that takes time and effort.”
Other pertinent topics covered during the symposium included, “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” and “The Gulf Oil Spill Disaster: Knowing the Potential Long Term Impacts.”
“This symposium illustrates the pivotal role our Area Health Education Center at Southern Miss plays in keeping faculty, students and the professional community informed of timely public health issues and concerns,” said Forster.
Other symposium presenters included Brad Davis, State Office Director in the Jackson office of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran; Dr. Heath Grames, assistant professor in the Department of Child and Family Studies at Southern Miss; Dr. Sheila Brookes, assistant professor in the Department of Child and Family Studies at Southern Miss and the Rev. John M. Hosey, Disaster Behavioral Health Coordinator for Faith Based and Community Projects with Interfaith.