Extension nets $5.5 million grant to combat obesity

Staff Writer

The Mississippi State University Extension will soon be involved in some comprehensive work combatting obesity with a recently- awarded $5.5 million grant.

The five-year Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant was awarded last week, and will be used by the extension in conjunction with University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Mississippi Public Health Institute. The grant will fund comprehensive programs to help curtail obesity in a dozen Mississippi counties where at least 40 percent of citizens are classified as obese. The first phase will target Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena and Sharkey counties, which already have a UMMC presence. The name of the program
is Advancing, Inspiring, Motivating for Community Health Through Extension (AIM for CHangE).

“All the interventions to date have been really singular in their focus,” said State Health Specialist and assistant professor of food science, nutrition and health promotion David Buys, the grant’s principal investigator.“We are seeking to take a multilevel, multilayered approach. We have folks on our team that are qualified and experts at that individual level. We certainly need to educate people about eating healthy and how to make healthy choices. We need to educate people about being physically active and how to get more physical activity in your life.”

However, Buys said there was more to the picture than just the individual level.

“People can only choose from the choices available to them,” Buys said. “If there are not opportunities at the community level for people to even choose healthier foods or engage in more physical activity, more education is not going to necessarily fall on deaf ears, but there’s nothing they can do about it. There’s nothing they can do to make a change.”

Buys said the initiative hoped to bring to get the community support with advocacy in municipal governmentto support making communities healthier, with one team member being an expert on working with local government.

“Coalition-led work is our goal,” Buys said. “We don’t want to come in and be outside experts selling a community what they need to do to fix their problems. We want to empower a community to make the changes and then bring the resources to bear to help them make the changes they’ve identified they want to make.”

The grant programs will officially go into effect on Sept. 29.