How Third & Spruce Is Expanding Food Access in the Mississippi Delta

How Third & Spruce Is Expanding Food Access in the Mississippi Delta

Community initiative Third & Spruce Community Garden began in order to improve the overall health and wellbeing of communities in Greenville, MS. And for good reason. 

Greenville is considered a food desert due to a lack of reliable public transportation, a lack of accessible healthy food, and other factors. This puts a great strain on surrounding communities and puts people at higher risk for chronic disease and obesity. Community gardens have been shown to help decrease food insecurity and have also been shown to improve community mental wellness and physical health. 

This is likely due to the fact that community gardens offer a brief retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life. They also provide easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables for people and families who otherwise would be unable to get those foods.

In addition to expanding food access, Third & Spruce shares information with local residents on healthy eating, and hosts events for food drives, volunteer opportunites, and more. Their social media feed is full of wholesome content, ranging from updates on the garden, to tips on planting seasonal produce, to words of gratitude and encouragement to those who help with planting and harvesting.  

Initiatives like Third & Spruce show how impactful community engagement can be in creating healthier outcomes and improving community health. Click here to learn more about Third & Spruce Community Garden. Have a success story of your own? Send it to us! Visit https://uprootms.org/contact to get started.

How MSU Extension Service’s AIM for CHangE Is Creating a Healthier Mississippi

How MSU Extension Service’s AIM for CHangE Is Creating a Healthier Mississippi

Mississippi has historically been among the states with the highest rates of obesity in the nation. According to the CDC, in 2015, about 1.5 million adults in Mississippi were overweight or obese. Obesity is often associated with increased risk for diabetes and cardiovascular problems and can put people at risk for developing other chronic diseases. But initiatives like Mississippi State University’s Extension Service’s AIM for CHangE intend to change that. 

AIM for CHangE (short for Advancing, Inspiring, Motivating for Community Health through Extension) is a program focused on reducing the rate of obesity in some of the state’s most affected counties. AIM uses a holistic approach to solving this health issue by increasing communities’ access to healthy foods, physical activity, and health resources. AIM works directly with communities and community organizations in order to address health disparities in a way that is sustainable and that leads to healthier community behaviors. They operate with supportive funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One such organization is Hearty Helpings Food Pantry, a Greenville-based food bank that serves healthy meals to local residents in need. Greenville is considered a food desert due to a lack of reliable public transportation, a lack of accessible healthy food, and other factors. This puts a great strain on surrounding communities and puts people at higher risk for chronic disease and obesity

“Believe it or not, we have people walking two, three, or five miles to to get food,” said Pandora Redmond, founder of Greenville-based Hearty Helpings Food Pantry. 

Since March 2020, Hearty Helpings has served more than 12,500 healthy meals to 42,381 people in Washington County. AIM helped secure food donations for Hearty Helpings to distribute, and even helped the food pantry secure funding for a new deep freezer for food storage. 

But Greenville isn’t the only city in AIM’s service area. Communities in Falcon and Lexington, Mississippi have also benefited from AIM’s community approach to creating cultures of health. 

In Falcon, AIM, after meeting with community leaders, led a community clean up that prioritized renovating basketball courts and installing new park enhancements so that local youth could have a safe place to exercise. 

“We successfully completed between six and ten clean up days and we had Mayor Hodo and Ms. Liz and some of the youth came out and helped,” said Masey Smith, AIM’s Project Manager in an interview. “The biggest thing was to be able to install that pocket park enhancement. That was something that really brought so much joy to the community and it really brightened that area.”

In Lexington, AIM helped create the Lexington Food Pantry to serve local residents in Lexington and Holmes County after meeting with community members and identifying the need for one. Lexington Food Pantry was so successful that community members are currently working with AIM to find ways to expand the food bank’s service area in order to address food insecurity in communities across the Delta region. 

Click here to learn more about AIM’s work and community engagement. Be sure to also follow MSU Extension on social media to stay up to date on their work. Have a success story of your own? Send it to us! Visit https://uprootms.org/contact to get started.

Keeping Belzoni Beautiful: A Community Initiative for Now and Always

Keeping Belzoni Beautiful: A Community Initiative for Now and Always

From community garden beautification to organizing litter clean-up crews, Keeping Belzoni Beautiful (KBB) is a community initiative developed to ensure local communities in Belzoni, Mississippi are safe, clean, and well-maintained.

As an affiliate of Keep Mississippi Beautiful, and subsequently Keep America Beautiful, KBB is allowed to submit a proposal for a community “Great American Clean Up,” which can range from organizing recycling efforts to leading litter clean-up crews to renovating public spaces.

On May 13, the members of Keep Belzoni Beautiful organized a local clean-up and renovation of their community garden, as part of their proposal and affiliation with Keep Mississippi Beautiful. The event involved dozens of families and community members and resulted in an updated community garden that not only included new produce, new compost bins, and butterfly gardens, but also a new walking path. Participants were treated to fresh fruit from the garden and celebrated with barbeque after the day’s work concluded.

“This community garden…will serve as a source of physical activity and will also create a beautiful atmosphere that people can just come and sit and relax their minds,” said Executive Director of Keep Belzoni Beautiful, Chandra Hines in an interview with The Delta News.

Keep Belzoni Beautiful is an inspiring initiative that other communities can start in order to keep their towns, parks, and other public areas safe and accessible.

For more information, read this Delta News article focused on the event or follow Keep Belzoni Beautiful on Facebook. You can also learn more about their community resources, objectives, and work with the Mississippi State Department of Health here. Have a success story of your own? Send it to us! Visit https://uprootms.org/contact to get started.

Let’s Talk Baby Cafe: Supporting Mothers, Breaking Stigmas

Let’s Talk Baby Cafe: Supporting Mothers, Breaking Stigmas

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Affirmations decorate the halls of the community baby cafe. Photo provided by: Let’s Talk Baby Cafe

Words of encouragement and affirmation decorate the halls of Sunflower County’s community baby cafe, Let’s Talk Baby Cafe (formerly known as the Delta Baby Cafe). Located in Indianola, Let’s Talk has become an essential resource for nearly 80 mothers who frequent the cafe to comfortably practice nursing their babies and access helpful resources and information. 

Jacqueline Lambert, Support Service Manager at Delta Health Alliance (DHA) and Lead Facilitator and Founder of the Let’s Talk Baby Cafe, speaks on what inspired her to start a baby cafe in Sunflower County, and how her initiative has helped mothers in the community overcome the stigmas surrounding breastfeeding and navigate the unknowns of early motherhood. 

Creating a Safe Space 

Lambert said her idea for creating Let’s Talk Baby Cafe came from her time working with The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). She saw how effective baby cafes were in providing mothers with a safe space to breastfeed and find support for early motherhood, and was inspired to recreate that in Sunflower County. 

“While working with WIC, I heard about the baby cafe model,” Lambert said, “and I wanted to be able to reach out to moms and create a safe space for them to talk about their pregnancies, childbirth, or anything going on in their lives.” 

Not only does Let’s Talk Baby Cafe offer new mothers a chance to connect, it also provides access to lactation resources, such as latching techniques and breast pumps, through DHA’s breastfeeding support program. Working moms are given advice on how to schedule feeding, pumping, and newborn care. Let’s Talk will even work with the mother’s insurance to see if affordable options are available. 

New fathers can also receive support at Let’s Talk and are often interested in learning more about breastfeeding and postpartum in order to find new ways to support their partners.

Resources and information provided by the cafe. Photo provided by: Let’s Talk Baby Cafe

Breaking Stigmas

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises mothers to practice exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) for 6 months, and considers this to be the most effective way of giving babies the nutrients they need to develop.

In Mississippi, however, breastfeeding rates are among the lowest in the nation, especially in the Delta region of the state. In Sunflower County, only 40% of infants were breastfed within the first hour of life from 2018 to 2019, which was far lower than the national average, which sits just below 84%. 

The health benefits of breastfeeding have been well documented and extend to both mom and baby. For mothers, breastfeeding reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes and hypertension; for babies, breastfeeding decreases the likelihood of obesity, asthma, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). 

But in Mississippi, the barriers to breastfeeding are numerous, especially for Black mothers. In addition to the high-cost of supplies, such as breast pumps, and the lack of education around nursing, stigmas surrounding breastfeeding prevent many mothers from initiating. Lambert said breaking these stigmas was another motivating factor for starting Let’s Talk.

“That was another goal: to create a place for mothers to go and to see other women that look like them who are nursing,” said Lambert. “A lot of times if you don’t see nursing you don’t think it’s happening. Well, our moms were nursing, it’s just they were ashamed to tell people they were nursing, because they themselves didn’t see it.”

In addition to normalizing breastfeeding by creating a supportive environment in the cafe, Lambert says that changing how women and, to a larger extent, communities view nursing will help programs focus on what other ways mothers may need support. 

“Once we start changing how we view [breastfeeding] it changes what we can do to support it,” said Lambert.

But normalizing the practice of breastfeeding is just one stigma Lambert is working to break. Another stigma surrounds the very discussion of breastfeeding. Some new moms are too embarrassed, uncomfortable, or even ashamed to ask questions or start conversations about nursing, and this can prevent them from getting the information they need to start the latching process. 

Lambert chose “Let’s Talk” as the new name for the baby cafe, because it introduces people to the conversation and community-focused aspects of the cafe right from the start. 

“I decided to go with the name ‘Let’s Talk’ because that’s what I wanted it to be–conversation,” said Lambert. “I wanted people to feel welcomed and not threatened or think that they couldn’t participate if they weren’t breastfeeding. No, let’s talk. Let’s talk about breastfeeding, let’s talk about newborn care, let’s just talk. And when people see these discussions as a conversation and not a presentation, they’re able to open up more.” 

Seeing a Change

Whether in-person or online, Let’s Talk provides opportunities for mothers to access the tools they need to support their nursing. 

During the pandemic, Let’s Talk hosted virtual programs for mothers to ask questions and learn more about nursing. These programs were especially helpful to mothers who had transportation issues or underlying health concerns. Lambert says the cafe’s work during that time, as well as its continued work in the community is truly making a difference. 

Let’s Talk hosted virtual baby cafes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to support mothers who were unable to attend in-person events. Photo provided by: Let’s Talk Baby Cafe.

“I have seen a change. I’ve noticed that we’ve become a resource in the community. People don’t mind sharing or letting their families know that there is a baby cafe available to help them with their breastfeeding concerns,” Lambert said. 

For more information, visit DeltaHealthAlliance.org and follow Let’s Talk on Facebook. Have a success story of your own? Send it to us! Visit https://uprootms.org/contact to get started.

On the SHA and SHIP: An Interview with Kaye Bender

On the SHA and SHIP: An Interview with Kaye Bender

Kaye Bender, Executive Director of the Mississippi Public Health Association (MPHA) speaks on the development of the State Health Assessment (SHA) and the State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) and suggests what you can do to help improve the health of our state and local communities. 

Although similar in name, the SHA and the SHIP have very different functions when it comes to improving our state’s health.

“Think of it in phases,” Bender said. “The State Health Assessment would be phase one, consisting of collecting data. The State Health Improvement Plan would then be phase two putting that data into action.”

The SHA not only collects data, but also presents that data in a way that is comprehensive and relatable. What kind of data does the SHA collect? Factors contributing to health issues, rates of obesity and chronic diseases in the state, and causes of death or hospitalization are all data findings presented in the assessment.

Additionally, the SHA lists ways communities can optimize their health assets, overcome social or economic barriers, and outlines potential system, capacity, and social issues that may inhibit healthcare access or quality. This data is based on listening sessions that are held across the state when a new SHA is being developed. 

These listening sessions provided the public with an opportunity to express both the assets and barriers that are affecting their communities as well as what health issues they feel need to be prioritized. The SHA is updated to reflect the needs of the public, therefore ensuring that community needs are represented and addressed. 

After the SHA is developed, through a collaborative effort between UProot partners and The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), The State Health Assessment Improvement Committee (SHAIC) convenes to review the data and develop work plans for the SHIP. The SHAIC is composed of over a hundred representatives from a range of organizations, businesses, and state health departments that are interested in improving the state’s health. 

“They’re an awesome group,” Bender said about the SHAIC, “I have been so impressed with the commitment of this group to have these conversations.”

The work plans act as benchmarks for the SHAIC to measure overall progress toward improving the state’s health and addressing the root causes of certain disparities and health conditions over the next three to five years.

“The State Health Improvement Plan moves beyond the assessment of the State Health Assessment,” Bender said, “and asks ‘what are we going to do about our issues?’”

Once the work plans have been developed, they are shared with the public. Feedback is collected from a 15 minute survey that is designed for anyone to review and comment on the developed work plans. The feedback period has passed for the latest work plans, but if you’re interested in improving our state’s health, you can do so by staying informed and inspiring healthy activities and engagement in your community

“Anybody–members of the public or organizations that may not yet be part of SHAIC, can look at the work plans and offer feedback,” Bender said. “Feedback helps us further refine the work plans. So it’s very important for us to get feedback to know if our work plans are feasible. It can also inspire people to learn more, or to become further engaged with improving our state’s health.”

After the feedback period, the SHAIC convenes and reviews the feedback provided. The work plans are not considered final until they have been adjusted according to the feedback provided. Community-level feedback is vital to ensuring that the SHIP work plans are addressing the needs of all Mississippi residents.

“Community level input is very important,” Bender said, “because what works on the Mississippi Gulf Coast may not work in the Delta.”

Bender had this to say to anyone interested in improving our state’s health: 

“Comment. Look at the information and comment. Provide feedback on the work plans and let us know how you’d like to be involved in the work. The UProot website offers many ways for people to get in touch with us. Also, keep at it. Whatever work you’re doing in your community, keep it up. Don’t forget to send us what community activities you’re doing to improve our state’s health.” 

Ready to get involved in improving our state’s health? Visit our Contact page to send us an email or share what your community is doing to create cultures of health.

How to Have a Healthy Tailgate

How to Have a Healthy Tailgate

Southerners know the first sign of autumn isn’t the changing of the leaves, but the running of the ball. Football season is upon us! But though you’ll likely be surrounded by wings and Rotel dip at our favorite tailgating spots and might worry that you won’t have many options, never fear! Making football food healthy doesn’t have to mean celery sticks and fruit plates alone. Here are some yummy tailgate food ideas that would satisfy the tastes of any eater (and keep your doctor from hollering at you about your blood pressure).

Appetizer: Hummus

A Mediterranean dip comprised of garbanzo beans, tahini (a paste of ground sesame seeds), herbs to taste, and olive oil, hummus is a fast and tasty solution to satisfying savory cravings. Blend it yourself or grab it near the deli at any grocery store. Need a kick? Add sriracha or peppers to the blend for spicy, zesty goodness that you might even forget about not having some buffalo dip. Serve with crackers, bread, that side celery—however you like to dip!

Entree: Veggie burgers

Nothing says indulgence like a burger loaded with condiments, veggies, and cheese. The awesome part is you can always make a burger taste good, whether it’s keto, paleo, vegan—however you like to eat! Burger purist? Choose quality beef that’s free from preservatives. Going leaner? Use ground turkey or chicken, or even salmon or crab patties. Trying to get more plants in? Make your own veggie burgers! And don’t be afraid of fries as a side; just bake them instead of fry them. They’ll crisp up just as nicely!

Dessert: Options are endless!

Even if your team isn’t playing as well as you’d like, you can still make a dessert worth bragging on. Just like veggie burgers, desserts are some of the easiest products to make healthy, and so delicious that even the biggest sweets lover will enjoy them. Recipe call for eggs? Grab a plant-based egg replacer. Need milk and butter? Try non-dairy options, or their low-fat counterparts. Try fruit with low-fat, no sugar whipped cream. You can whip coconut milk in a blender with honey and vanilla!

So if you’re feeding Tigers or Bulldogs or Land Sharks or any of the other Mississippi teams playing their hearts out this football season, just know you can celebrate your team and still eat just as good with a few healthy twists!

Check out our Pinterest for even more healthy tailgating recipes! We’ve got a whole board on the topic.

Photo by Dragne Marius on Unsplash

Delta Health Center Puts Childhood Obesity on the Mend

Delta Health Center Puts Childhood Obesity on the Mend

 

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Photo by Steven Depolo.

At the Delta Health Center in Mound Bayou, teens and their parents are learning how to eat better and exercise—together.

 

Kids and parents come to the location, about ten miles north of Cleveland, Mississippi, two afternoons a week. While kids get an info session about healthy eating and enjoy a period of physical activity, parents learn about planning healthier meals.

 

All of this is part of MEND 7-13, a program developed as part of the MEND Foundation  in the early 2000s by the leading childhood obesity experts in the United Kingdom. MEND (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It!) provides education and encourages active play to improve the health and self-esteem of participants to help them establish a healthy BMI. Thanks to a call for participation from the Mississippi Primary Health Care Association, the Delta Health Center, G.A. Carmichael Health Center in Canton, Greater Meridian Health Clinic in Meridian, and the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Center in Clarksdale have access to the MEND curriculum, which has a long history of success where it’s implemented.  

 

Chief program planning and development officer at the Delta Health Center Robin Boyles says they jumped at the chance. “We said we wanted to because obesity is a big issue across Mississippi, but especially in the Delta.”

 

Childhood obesity

 

Nearly 40% of adults and 40% of children in Mississippi are overweight or obese.  Obesity puts many at risk for preventable chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. And with a fitness culture that can be psychologically damaging, especially to young people, compounded with a food culture impacted heavily by race and poverty, many Mississippians find themselves stuck in an unhealthy cycle with food.

 

Boyles, who also serves as program manager for MEND at the Delta Health Center, says the the purpose of MEND is to introduce productive, sustainable changes to participants’ exercise and eating habits, not to get caught up on weight. The practice, Boyles says, is validating to the youth participants, who can exercise without being judged by their peers.

 

“During physical activity a lot of times at school or P.E. class, these kids get made fun of, or are the last ones to get picked for a team,” Boyles said. “We remove all those barriers so they can engage in physical activity without having to worry about being shamed. The kids are loving it, look forward to it, it’s fun.”

 

Parents also learn the best ways to promote at home what their children learn at the health center. They also learn how to speak to their children about health and fitness with dignity, so that they can address their concerns about their children’s weight without fat-shaming.

 

“If parents aren’t doing what they need to do to make sure there’s healthy food in the house, then it makes it more difficult for their children to make healthier changes,” Boyle said.

 

Uphill Battle

 

Still, despite the Delta Health Center’s best efforts, they’re fighting an uphill battle.

 

Though the DHC in Mound Bayou has a community garden open to the public, this town, and many others, are in a food desert. Poor infrastructure, among a web of other problems, makes it difficult for even incremental progress.

 

“In Shelby and Winstonville and even in Mound Bayou, there’s not a grocery store. You have to drive to Clarksdale or to Cleveland to get to the closest grocery store,” Boyles said. “If you can only get to the store once a month to buy groceries, your vegetables aren’t going to keep for that long. A lot of our population ends up eating a lot of processed foods.”

 

It is also difficult for residents who aren’t already aware of ways to work out safely get significant exercise.

 

“Mound Bayou and some of these small Delta towns have such low tax revenue because there’s no industry, so streets are in bad shape, with no sidewalks. A lot of places have walking trails to different places, but in Mound Bayou and surrounding small communities, there’s nothing,” she said. “Even if you were going to do a walking trail, you’d have to drive at least 15 miles to get to the closest one from some of the rural areas. The roads are not really walkable.”

 

Community garden at Delta Health Center in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Photo courtesy Delta Health Center Facebook.

Community garden at Delta Health Center in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Photo courtesy Delta Health Center Facebook.

 

But, Boyles says, MEND is a stepping stone to their plan to give Mound Bayou residents more tools to live a healthier lifestyle in a geographic area with few options for the very poor.  “We’re working on getting funding to have a health and wellness center, as there’s not a lot of opportunities for physical fitness without having to drive a good long way. Even the roads are so bad you can’t even really walk without risk of hurting yourself. So the opportunities for physical activity are really slim. We have a bigger vision, and saw this as part of a stepping stone.”

 

 

 

Tackling Childhood Obesity

 

Parents can enroll their families in MEND programs.  “Through this project, Delta Health Center is addressing childhood obesity with its patients and others from the community,” Boyles said. “We anticipate a second group to begin in early October and encourage parents of children ages 7-13 with an unhealthy Body Mass Index (BMI) to enroll their child by calling Delta Health Center or emailing me at rboyles@deltahealthcenter.org.”

 

Speak to your child with dignity.  High obesity rates are not indicative of moral failure. Data from numerous sources on human psychology and food production show that several compounding factors influence obesity among Americans, including access to nutritious foods and safe places to exercise. “The Mississippi Delta counties have some of the highest obesity rates in a state with the highest obesity rate in the nation.  Limited access to healthy foods and exercise opportunities in rural communities resulting in unhealthy eating and physical inactivity has contributed to obesity among both children and adults,” Boyles said.

 

Clinics, gyms, and other programs can adopt the MEND curriculum for 2 to 5-year-olds as well as 7 to 13-year-olds. For over 12 years, MEND has changed the lives of over 85,000 children. Over 80 percent of participants reduce or maintain their BMI, or body mass index. Learn more about MEND programs here.

 

Establish or join your school district’s health council. Every school and district in Mississippi is supposed to have a health council. Composed of teachers, administrators, parents, business owners and other community leaders, health councils get whole communities invested in the health of students and teachers in a school or district.

 

Try meal prepping. Cutting out fast and processed food is the fastest way to eat more nutritiously and just as deliciously. Sources like HAPPYHEALTHY has resources for cooks of all ages.

 

Be active as a family. Fitness doesn’t have to mean being the star athlete or doing Crossfit. Taking walks or playing games outside are awesome active ways to bond.

 

The UPside, Episode 2: Preventative Medicine and Health Education with Joshua Mann, MD, MPH

The UPside, Episode 2: Preventative Medicine and Health Education with Joshua Mann, MD, MPH

The UPside is a series in which we learn how state agencies, businesses, and other organizations in Mississippi are helping to build a culture of health from the ground up.

In this episode, Dr. Mary Currier, State Health Officer of the Mississippi State Department of Health, talks with Joshua Mann, MD, MPH, Chair and Professor of the Department of Preventative Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, about all the ways in which preventative medicine and health education contributes to the overall health of Mississippians.

 

 

 

 

When it comes to feeling better, antibiotics aren’t always the answer. Although the introduction of the drugs revolutionized the practice of medicine, the CDC reports that “20 to 50%” of antibiotics prescribed in acute-care hospitals in the U.S. are “unnecessary and inappropriate.”

 

So when the North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, Mississippi, began educating their doctors, nurses, and other medical staff on proper antibiotic stewardship, the RN to BSN (registered nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing) program at the Mississippi University for Women, took up the cause as well, says nursing instructor Hannah Bascomb.

 

“Because they’re our community partner, we try to push things on their agenda at the same time,” Bascomb said. “Our students are already nurses. We really want to make them aware of current problems and things they need to be updated on.”

 

 

Hannah Bascomb is a nursing instructor at the RN to BSN program at the Mississippi University for Women campus in Tupelo. Photo courtesy Bascomb.

 

The problem with antibiotics, Bascomb explains, is a sort of cycle. Healthcare providers are writing prescriptions for antibiotics, even when they’re not needed, for illnesses that antibiotics, which only kill bacteria, can’t even help—like the flu, which is a virus. Many patients don’t know that, or demand antibiotics anyway, which if taken unnecessarily, leave them vulnerable to a host of issues.

 

“When (patients) do need the antibiotic, the antibiotic isn’t working, because their body has enabled the germ to mutate,” Bascomb said. People also underestimate the strength of antibiotics, Bascomb said, so they’re causing side effects—upset stomachs, diarrhea, rashes, allergic reactions, and Clostridium difficile colitis, or C. difficile, a very serious gastrointestinal condition that can lead to hospitalization or even death.

 

Nurses Save Lives—and Educate Communities

 

The nursing program created a simple assignment for its students: create a 15-minute presentation to give to 5 non-medical professionals, an experience Bascomb says had a great impact on both the nurses and the students. “It was really surprising and amazing how many of our students weren’t aware you shouldn’t take antibiotics if you have a virus,” Bascomb said. But the student body quickly caught on, and used what they learned to educate friends and family. Almost 300 students gave their presentations to approximately 1,470 individuals representing 62 of the 82 counties in the state of Mississippi.

 

The success of the program speaks to the impact of well-educated and empowered nurses at every degree level. Nurses, most of whom are RNs, make up the bulk of healthcare workers. As nurses advance in degree levels, many become primary healthcare practitioners, writing prescriptions, performing examinations, and diagnosing patients—some of whom because of poverty or where they live may have extremely limited access to a doctor.

 

Their work impacted more than just humans, Bascomb says. “We did have some people that gave us some feedback once they heard some presentations,” she said. Those people turned out to be farmers who didn’t realize the effect of indiscriminately giving their animals antibiotics. “So we’ve had requests to get more education and resources on giving their livestock antibiotics.”

 

Though the nurses’ task had far-reaching impact, there’s still work to be done to make sure people use antibiotics properly inside and outside of the hospital. “Take drugs seriously and with precaution,” she said. “And trust your doctor. If your doctor prescribes fluids and bedrest and over-the-counter meds, that doesn’t mean that they have not effectively treated you. You can still get effective treatment without having to necessarily get a prescription filled at the pharmacist.”

 

Antibiotic Stewardship

 

Hospitals and schools can address the lack of knowledge of healthcare providers.

The CDC’s Core Elements of Hospital Antibiotic Stewardship Program has materials to help educate healthcare professionals about proper antibiotic stewardship.

 

Hospitals, schools, and medical professionals can also do community outreach.

“We are hoping through this initiative of educating the lay people that that’s going to help the healthcare providers, because then the person won’t come in demanding that prescription.”

 

Patients should defer to professionals.

“Our population feels that they are being more educated with access to things on the internet and on television. When they advertise drugs on TV and patients Google their symptoms, they oftentimes go to their healthcare provider with their own diagnosis formulated in their mind, whether or not it’s accurate, and often put those preconceived notions in the doctor’s head or mind. The healthcare provider then feels if they don’t meet the request, then their patient’s satisfaction will go down.”

 

Know that antibiotics don’t kill viruses.

Antibiotics only kill bacteria.

 

Only take antibiotics as directed.

Don’t keep taking the ones in your medicine cabinet just because you may not feel well.   

 

Essie Florence has been living with lupus since 1997, when she was a senior in high school. After her business partner Marie Abston was diagnosed in 2016, the two women realized they could give back to their community and help others by raising awareness about lupus.

 

Systemic lupus erythematosus, known simply as lupus, is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system mistakenly and randomly attacks healthy body tissue. The disease can be moderate or severe, with painful and debilitating symptoms including fatigue, body pain, swollen joints, and a rash.

 

According to Lupus News Today, roughly 1.5 million Americans have the disease, and approximately 1 in 250 people may end up developing it in their lives. Most sufferers are women of color; 1 in every 537 black women is affected by the disease. But according to a 2012 Lupus Foundation of America article, more than 70 percent of Americans aged 18-34 were unaware of what lupus even was—a reality Florence and Abston felt in their everyday life, fielding questions about the disease.

 

“It is a livable disease, but it is a hard disease to live with, and we just wanted to let people know what it is and what the side effects are and what you should look for,” Florence said.

 

So in May 2017, the HamiltonDavis Home Care, Inc. Lupus Awareness Weekend was born. The weekend features a Friday gala with a guest speaker, dinner, and entertainment, and a walk on Saturday, and is sponsored by HamiltonDavis Home Care, Inc., operated by Florence and Abston. Last year, Florence says, with the help of social media and word-of-mouth interest among her network, there were about 150 to 200 registrants for the event; this year, she says, there were over 300.

 

Florence believes social media played a big part in the initial and subsequent success of the event. “I think that when people found out about the event late last year, we got a lot of responses from people saying ‘Man, I wish I knew about the walk,’” Florence said. “I think more people had prepared to attend the event this year because they missed out last year.”

 

“We just can’t wait until next year to see how it expands because we’re planning on doing something bigger and better next year, so we’re excited about the future of the Lupus Awareness Weekend,” Florence said.

 

To Florence, seeing the “outpour of support” from individuals is the satisfying part of her work to empower, uplift, and inform— and what makes Lupus Awareness Weekend so important.

 

“I think you don’t have to be affected personally,” Florence said. “If you just want to create awareness, that inspires people to let other people know about the disease—that’s what inspired us to let others know how this affects people.”

 

How to get involved:

 

Be sponsors. The 3rd annual Mississippi Lupus Awareness Weekend is already in the works for next May, but the planners are already working toward it. “With that committee, we plan on being able to cover more of the state.”

 

Make connections. From what I’m gathering, there isn’t another Lupus Weekend or Walk in my state, so we would like to be able to reach other people throughout the state to make this grander and bigger.

 

Manpower Like any volunteer event, workers for the gala, the walk, and other events would greatly assist in the weekend going smoothly.

 

Vendor tables. Keep in touch! If you represent an organization or business that you think would benefit from having a table at the Lupus Awareness Walk, mark your calendars for next May!

 

Donate via mail with form on website.  Stay tuned to be able to donate online!