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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Starkville chosen for health award

 
Starkville has been named the healthiest town in Mississippi by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi. The honor comes with a $50,000 grant to promote wellness.
Mayor Parker Wiseman said living in the healthiest town in Mississippi feels outstanding.
“We’ve known for a while that this community is proactive on the health policy front, but it’s nice to have a credible organization such as the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi validate our efforts by identifying us as the single healthiest community in the state,” he said.
Dylan Karges, representative for the Starkville Community Market and Healthy Hometown Committee, said the health award is beneficial because it can be used as a recruiting tool for incoming businesses. It also challenges the stereotypes about obesity in Mississippi.
“It’s a very unique and special honor to be able to say we live in the healthiest town in Mississippi,” he said.
Linda Southward, former chair of the HHC, said the health award is beneficial to students because of the bike trails, walk trails, parks and recreational facilities that have been recently created or improved to which students have access.
Recently, the Starkville Community has focused on raising the bar for the overall health of its citizens. The town’s efforts were shown to be effective in the application process of the health award.
“We’ve taken the application process seriously for a long time,” Wiseman said.
 
Southward said the health award showcased and highlighted the things people in town have been doing for a while.
Several factors contributed to Starkville’s win, especially the HHC, which consists of a group of dedicated local citizens that focuses its efforts on creating a healthier community, he said.
Alyson Karges, HHC chairperson, said the goal of the group is to encourage healthy lifestyles, provide healthier dining options and to promote walking, cycling and physical activity.
“I’m really excited about what this committee has been able to do,” she said.
Karges said the HHC spotlights local activities for citizens of all ages.
“We’re the ones making sure (Starkville is) being proactive about providing healthy activities for our citizens,” he said.
Mississippi State University’s Sanderson Center contributes to the health of Starkville, because not only do students have access, but community members do as well, Karges said.
Wiseman said the Sanderson Center is one of the most advanced exercise and recreational facilities in the entire southeast of the United States and contributes greatly to the health of Starkville.
The Healthy Hometown award requires its applicants to apply to be a smoke-free town. Wiseman said Starkville was the first major municipality in Mississippi to pass a smoke-free workplaces law, which greatly benefits the city.
“There has been preliminary research that shows incidents of heart attacks and heart failure have decreased since the law was enacted,” he said.
Southward said 27 percent of heart attacks have been reduced since the 2006 ban.
Half of the $50,000 grant will go toward hiring a Healthy Starkville Coordinator. Southward said the coordinator will be beneficial to Starkville because it can bring in new grants and involve other organizations and businesses in improving the town.
A smaller portion will go toward businesses or organizations that promote healthy activities and lifestyle projects.
“This … monetary award [will] help us move forward and accomplish even more,” Karges said.
Wiseman said the Starkville Community Market offers an opportunity for residents to buy vegetables and food products, which contribute to the health of the city.
“They’re a real treat to eat,” Wiseman said. “[They’re] a healthier product than farm products from faraway places that often contain additives and in some cases are harvested prematurely.”
Wiseman said Starkville has applied for the Health award twice, losing last time to Hernandez.
Southward said becoming the healthiest town in Mississippi has taken a lot of hard work over a long period of time.
“This didn’t happen overnight,” she said. “Individuals, groups and the town leadership for a number of years have been working hard to improve the health of its citizens.”
 

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Starkville chosen for health award