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Blueprint for healthier living unveiled in Natchez, Miss

By Jodi Belgard

Humana and the Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI) kicked off a collaborative health improvement effort in and around Natchez, Miss., with two recent community events. The joint campaign is tied to Humana’s 2020 goal – to improve the health of communities it serves 20 percent by 2020.

Months of research and discussion with community leaders culminated in a Blueprint for Action – a plan for the residents of Adams County to achieve specific health goals in the next five years. Humana and CHMI unveiled the blueprint at a luncheon, which featured a panel of four local residents who are invested in this goal for their community, either through their own healthy living experience or through their desire to see their friends and neighbors simply do better.

“This initiative, the way we are embarking upon it, is really your initiative,” Humana 2020 Leader Emily Allen Kirby told community stakeholders at the luncheon. “Health is local and solutions to health are also local. Health is not easy. It takes work. You have to achieve it. We know that better health can make us better people and help us live better lives.”

The blueprint, based on data from the County Health Rankings model as well as local data, focuses on nine areas of need in Adams County, including physical activity, healthy eating and food quality, quality of care and access to care, and education, income and employment.

“It really, at the end of the day, is about improving health indicators,” CHMI National Director Gillian Sealy said. “I hope there’s an exchange of ideas about how you can take a rural area like Adams County and highlight solutions that can be scalable in terms of making health improvements.”

Natchez resident Robert Pernell, 65, was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. After some prodding from his two daughters, he changed his eating habits, started going to the gym and reversed his diagnosis.

“It’s not hard once you start, but it would have been different if I didn’t have someone around me who loves me,” Pernell said.

Pernell is featured in an illustrated novel designed and distributed by Humana. The piece tells the stories of five Adams County residents who have changed their lives by adopting healthier habits. Humana used the comic book-style approach to make health information and inspirational stories more accessible to a variety of people.

The illustrated novel was distributed at Humana’s Fit for Life event, which included the unveiling of murals of the people featured in the novel. The event at Natchez Bluff Park featured health screenings, a fitness walk, Zumba and activities like flag football and hula hooping. The Alcorn State University Food Co-op Farmers Market also was there to educate participants about healthy food choices.

Michelle Barron, a 31-year-old teacher in Natchez, took advantage of the health screenings and Zumba.
“I feel like (the program) is a big need here,” she said, adding that she believes the biggest issue facing residents is bad nutrition. “Obviously, the unhealthy food is the cheapest,” she said.

people signing paper at table
Local residents sign up for the fitness walk that was held May 16 as part of the Fit for Life event in Natchez, Mississippi.

More than 100 people signed up for the fitness walk – some families, some friends and one group of about 20 Adams County school district employees who are working to set a good example for the county’s kids.

“This fits right in to one of our community service goals,” said Steven Richardson with the Adams County School District. “School districts across the state are being impacted by health. We want to make sure we set the example and stand out.”

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