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Public Relations

2/4/2019 - Jackson, Miss.

The United Health Foundation recently released the 2018 America's Health Rankings Annual Report®, the 29th annual report on a wide variety of health and health-related topics. Using the latest publicly available data, the report looks at 35 core measures across a comprehensive set of behaviors, community and environmental conditions, policies, clinical care and health outcomes. The report ranks Mississippi as 49th for overall health, surprising no one.

Mississippi Public Universities work hard to change the statistics that lead to this ranking. Through research across the system, scientists housed within the universities are finding ways to improve the health and lives of Mississippians.

The Jackson State University School of Public Health is engaged in research funded by the National Institutes of Health that focuses on cardiovascular disease (CVD) and obesity through its Jackson State University Jackson Heart Study Graduate Training and Education Center (JSU JHS GTEC) and Center of Excellence in Minority Health and Health Disparities (CEMHD), respectively.

Through the JSU JHS GTEC, students in social, behavioral, and medical sciences are trained in the Daniel Hale Williams Scholars Program (DHWSP). The DHWSP provides training and education to prepare them for careers in biomedical sciences to combat health issues such as CVD.

The CEMHD focuses on obesity. Among the research in the CEMHD is its community engagement and outreach. The CEMHD provides community health education and promotion through its annual health conferences and meetings and encourages the public to live a healthy lifestyle to reduce health disparities such as diseases and health conditions related to obesity. This research contributes to some of the most pressing health issues in Mississippi.

Mississippi State University is involved in several research projects and initiatives that address health problems Mississippians, and all Americans, face each day.

In September 2018, MSU Extension was awarded a $5.5 million grant from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to fund AIM for CHangE, or "Advancing, Inspiring, Motivating for Community Health Through Extension," to combat obesity in Mississippi. The AIM for CHangE initiative goals include reducing obesity rates through a comprehensive approach that not only addresses issues within food systems, such as access to healthy foods, but also takes environmental and policy-level approaches to help communities address issues such as outdoor recreation, community walkability and educational programming.

In addition to several initiatives aimed at reducing obesity rates, MSU is leading multiple projects to combat the opioid crisis in Mississippi. MSU Extension recently received a $310,000 grant from the USDA for the "PReventing Opioid Misuse in the South East," or PROMISE program.

MSU's National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center received a federal grant in October to leverage data resources in efforts to prevent opioid abuse, treat addiction, and help law enforcement across the state combat the crisis. NSPARC plans to establish a statewide clearinghouse where data from multiple entities can be collected, integrated and aligned, providing partner agencies with data-driven decision-making tools and maximizing efficiency of Mississippi's resources strategically and in high-needs areas.

Establishment of this clearinghouse is in direct response to a major objective outlined in the Governor's Opioid and Heroin Study Task Force final report released in 2017 as directed by Governor Phil Bryant's Executive Order 1388.

Since 2016, MSU has partnered with the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Myrlie Evers-Williams Institute for the Elimination of Health Disparities at UMMC to address the social determinants of health by focusing on areas such as child health disparities, HIV/AIDS disparities, minority male health disparities and cancer health disparities.

Mississippi University for Women biology professor Dr. Ghanshyam Heda recently received a $55,000 grant from the Mississippi IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) to aid student research related to cystic fibrosis. This is the eighth consecutive year for his research to be funded. Dr. Heda currently has three research projects in progress, all with an overall goal to identify drug reagents that can help cystic fibrosis patients.

Undergraduate students, primarily those majoring in biology, are major contributors to the progress made in his various research projects. The research funding has greatly impacted the classroom experience of biology students at The W. Heda said the students are doing not only well in their classroom, but also becoming confident, developing their writing and presentation skills and successfully obtaining admissions into graduate and medical schools.

In addition to the renewal of research funds, Mississippi-INBRE also approved Heda's request of about $14,500 to upgrade a state-of-the-art analytical scanner, called Azur Biosystem c300 that was acquired about a year ago.

This work was supported by the Mississippi INBRE, funded by an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medicine Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant number P20GM103476. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences or the National Institutes of Health.

At Mississippi Valley State University, the Valley in Motion grant, sponsored by the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, has been transformative for the university and the Delta where there's a prevalence of chronic diseases—heart disease, stroke, hypertension and diabetes. The grant is designed to help Mississippians take small steps and help them learn best practices to maximize results.

MVSU Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Dr. Mark Dugo has joined the board of directors for the Fannie Lou Hamer Cancer Foundation (FLHCF). The Ruleville-based non-profit was founded and is led by MVSU alumna Freddie White-Johnson. Its mission includes preventing cancer in the Mississippi Delta by increasing awareness and establishing a public agenda for the prevention of cancer.

According to Dugo, research, education, and advocacy provided by FLHCF are critical in reducing the number of individuals impacted by cancer. Dugo brings to the organization a wealth of knowledge in the areas of health disparities and the underlying causes of cancer. His term will last two years, and he will be eligible to be reappointed by the Foundation's executive board.

The University of Mississippi's Flagship Constellations are dedicated to finding new solutions to the health and social issues affecting not only Mississippi communities, but also the nation, and the world. From big data to food deserts, disaster preparedness to brain injury recovery, these complicated issues demand collaborative thinking.

Communities across the rural-urban continuum face increasing challenges to their economies, personal health, environmental health, food security, housing, and infrastructure. The University of Mississippi's multidisciplinary research teams and programs will work within communities to identify the factors impairing their wellbeing and deploy new programs and practices to build stronger, more vibrant communities.

The University of Mississippi is also bringing together an academically diverse team to realize a fuller understanding behind brain function as a result of injury, addiction, and disease. The university's engagement in population-based research, clinical care, education, and basic research will assist with the development of technologies and evidence-based practices that bolster prevention of and recovery from brain impairment.

A new residency program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center has a lofty goal: creating a healthier Mississippi by preventing illness rather than curing it. Last year, UMMC earned accreditation for its first-ever preventive medicine residency program. Applicants must complete an internship with at least 10 months of direct patient care before entering the program. As residents, they take on at least four months in direct patient care and four months with the Mississippi State Department of Health. They may choose longer periods through electives.

They will also spend time at the G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery VA Medical Center, the Jackson Hinds Comprehensive Health Center, Mississippi State Medical Association and Mississippi Public Health Association; in rural health and telehealth training; and in primary care with the Department of Family Medicine, and in occupational medicine education.

Careers for preventive medicine physicians include academic medicine, quality improvement roles, employee wellness work, and clinical prevention practice, departments of health and health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other governmental institutions, such as the military.

Cardiovascular disease, including stroke, is the state's leading cause of death, and Mississippi's cardiovascular mortality rate is the highest in the nation, state Department of Health data shows. It accounts for more than a third of all deaths in Mississippi.

When Mississippians suffering major strokes reach an emergency room, their lives can potentially be saved if medical staff administer a drug that dissolves clots that have blocked the flow of blood to their brains.

But too often, victims of a mild but disabling stroke – especially residents of rural areas – don't get a tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, quickly enough to help. In many cases, they don't get it at all because they don't get to an emergency room soon enough for an evaluation.

Researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center are working to find solutions by taking part in a three-year observational study. Dubbed Mild and Rapidly Improving Stroke Study, or MaRISS, the study brings together about 90 U.S. hospitals and academic medical centers, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine for the first large, standardized research study to evaluate long-term outcomes of people who experience mild strokes. UMMC, the only participant from Mississippi, is sharing in the recruitment of patients to be included in the research.

UMMC operates an acute care stroke unit that combines leading-edge technology, expertise and specialty care. UMMC's Stroke Center takes part in the Mississippi State System of Care as a state-designated stroke center. The Center's facilities include the six-bed dedicated stroke unit and a 20-bed neurosciences intensive care unit.

Seeking ways to work smarter together while addressing the health issues prevalent in the Delta, researchers from Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee gathered at the University of Mississippi last July to discuss ongoing research and ways to translate collaborative research into clinical solutions to eliminate health disparities in the Delta region.

Heat maps from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to show that the Delta region is ground zero for the highest numbers of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and stroke.

Throughout the day, researchers from each academic medical center were allowed 15 minutes to explain the basics of their research, followed by questions from the audience. The conference was organized to introduce areas that might provide an opportunity for collaboration. There was also a poster session, so attendees could take a deeper look at research that interested them and a networking session to allow attendees to mingle and discuss possibilities.

Topics of discussion ranged from the disparities in breast cancer mortality in Memphis and chronic obesity to the impact of race and socioeconomics on psychological outcomes in childhood cancer, hypertension and factors associated with the sexual health and risk behaviors in African American women.

An $18 million renewal grant from the National Institutes of Health is enabling The University of Southern Mississippi and partner institutions to further research in a broad range of biomedical-related areas that are of great interest to the state of Mississippi, including cancer research, diabetes research, heart disease, teen pregnancy, obesity and sexually transmitted diseases. This renewal grant is for five additional years and brings the total amount of the grant to approximately $54 million.

The School of Social Work conducts applied, evidence-based research that improves the lives of Mississippians through published findings, policy changes, advocacy, and increased access to services.

Southern Miss Faculty are currently conducting research related to the following topics:

  • Health (integrated behavioral health, mental health, healthcare, maternal and child health, childhood obesity, school social work)
  • Justice (juvenile justice, child advocacy, political social work, community organizing, domestic violence)
  • Workforce development
  • Disaster
  • Trauma

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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