Health Advancements for the Mississippi Delta

Jay ThompsonThe Mississippi Delta is a region of the state that is comprised of approximately 18 counties, of which 30% of the residents live below the poverty level. This creates an entirely new set of problems for the region, as well as creating a shortage of healthcare professionals and limited options for healthy foods.  Therefore, residents of the Mississippi Delta experience the highest rates of strokes in the state and share with the state the highest rates of cardiovascular disease in the United States. With that being said, we choose to get busy living rather than to get busy dying.

The Mississippi Delta Health Collaborative (an extension of the Mississippi Department of Health) is confronting and overcoming these challenges and trust they will make the Mississippi Delta, and by extension the entire state, a healthier place. First, a sense of ownership has been adopted by several communities. Across the Mississippi Delta, communities have initiated strong efforts of their own to address healthcare challenges they face. Seventeen cities in 8 high-risk counties bring civic leaders together through mayoral health councils to plan effective strategies tailored to each community.

Joint Use agreements have opened school exercise facilities to the public and through community gardens, garden clubs and farmers’ markets; access to fresh fruits and vegetables is on the rise. Local churches, working through the Delta Health Collaborative’s Delta Alliance for Congressional Health Program, host quarterly health screenings.

We anticipate these actions furthering the work of Joint Use Agreements with schools, communities and churches that the Mississippi Network has established. We also trust it will create environments that promote heart healthy lifestyle choices, build public health infrastructure and allow citizens of this region to increase physical activity. These goals can be best attained by creating and strengthening bonds between individual and group initiatives across the Delta. By tying community efforts together, the Delta Health Collaborative is helping to change the context of the entire region, transforming it into a healthier place from the grassroots level up.