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Delta counties gearing up to combat obesity
MISSISSIPPI STATE – The Mississippi State University Extension Service is bringing communities together to address obesity in the Mississippi Delta.
Get Healthy, Trim Down Delta is a program supported by the Delta Health Alliance through financial support from the Office of Rural Health Policy, a branch of the Health Resources and Services Administration. Four counties inside the Delta were selected to participate in the program.
“Carroll, Holmes, Leflore and Sunflower counties have some of the highest occurrences of obesity in the Delta. We want to reduce and prevent the incidences of obesity in these counties by bringing citizens together to dialogue about the best options for creating change in these communities concerning healthy lifestyles,” said Rural Health Program leader and principal investigator Bonnie Carew.
The project held forums in each of the four counties to gain a better understanding of not only the challenges of maintaining a healthy lifestyle in that area, but also the successes.
Holmes County Extension director Betsy Padgett said the forums are one of the best aspects of the project.
“It brought a diverse group of people together to voice their opinions of Holmes County’s situation -- high incidence of obesity, hypertension and diabetes -- and give them an opportunity to go to work addressing these issues personally and for the community,” Padgett said.
At the completion of each forum, participants created community action groups. Each group picked a topic concerning healthy living to promote within their community.
The groups in Carroll County chose to focus on building a walking track and putting home economics back in the schools. Holmes County is emphasizing family dinners, common gardens and physical activity outside of schools. Leflore County chose to increase education for its community members, and Sunflower County is promoting healthy cooking, walking programs and children’s sports programs.
Pamela Lee, a community action group member in Carroll County, said she thinks the project will benefit her area. Her group is focusing on home economics being put back in schools, but they have also created a short-term goal of opening a fitness center in Vaiden.
“We plan on having the fitness center fully operational by the end of May,” Lee said. “We also chose a long-term goal of reintroducing home economics into the basic education structure for middle-school students in Mississippi. This goal will take a number of years to accomplish, but we are willing to continue to work on it with other organizations to see it accomplished.”
MSU Extension’s Master Health Education Volunteer Program participants are helping educate Delta citizens. Members of this program, known as Healthy Lifestyle Volunteers, agree to participate in a one-day training seminar and complete a minimum of 20 hours of volunteer service. Volunteers are given a manual and CD with PowerPoint presentations and educate citizens about different health topics, such as portion size control, tips for eating out and how to eat on a budget.
“Healthy Lifestyle Volunteers are an important factor in the Get Healthy, Trim Down Delta project,” said community health coordinator and volunteer director Ann Sansing. “Their service to the community can bring a positive change to the individuals living in their area.”
Writer: Bobbie Jo Beach, (662) 325-3360
MSU Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion