Healthier Options

A Matter of the “Heart”

Jay ThompsonHi! Welcome to my blog.

I bring you greetings from the great state of Mississippi — where we are known as the Hospitality State. Here in Mississippi, we are exhibiting hospitable acts by advising the state of healthy options and lifestyle adjustments to reverse trends in obesity. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is one of the means by which we will accomplish this endeavor. 

Prior to joining the National Partnership, I was employed with the Mississippi State Department of Health where I served as director of Injury and Violence Prevention in the Office of Preventive Health.  Along with being afforded the opportunity to work in preventive health, I saw all the chronic diseases that wreak havoc on our state. Moreover, several of my family members suffer from or have died as a result of one in particular--diabetes or complications stemming from this disease state. Diabetes and obesity have a direct correlation to each other in that obesity serves as a pre-cursor to this debilitating ailment.

So what are we doing to create a paradigm shift? Well for starters we continue to build a diverse network of partners consisting of organizations, public agencies and corporations to share our voice and vision. One of our partners, the Mississippi Department of Transportation, which manages the state’s Safe Routes to School program, has contributed a great deal. They have awarded more than $9.5 million in Safe Routes to School funds around the state. To date, 88 schools are directly involved in the program and the vast majority of these schools reside in underserved or areas of low socio-economic status. Safe Routes to School ambassadors engage children, grades 2–5, in meaningful dialog about bicycle/pedestrian safety. Hands-on educational presentations are presented to the students and bicycle rodeos are held, which gives them an opportunity to try what they’ve learned and engage in a healthy activity.

Communities have also been inundated with Safe Routes to School programs, with 28 communities participating. We feel that creating awareness through community involvement will arrest the attention of community leaders and when the community leaders speak, it is our expectation that the state officials will listen.

My involvement and becoming more knowledgeable about what the National Partnership has to offer has ignited my passion about creating a healthier Mississippi one citizen at a time.

In future blogs we will talk about reshaping our infrastructure around the state.  To join the Mississippi network list, contact me.

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