The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation announced in December it would be renewing funding support for the Healthy Campus/Community Initiative at DSU, now in its fifth year.
The creation of the HC/CI program has made significant progress in changing the culture of health and wellness on campus, at local district schools and within the community.
Since the program's inception in 2009, the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation has donated over $1.8 million to help train local teachers, provide wellness activities, enhance fitness/recreation classes and events and deliver ongoing health screenings and educational venues.
"We can see the culture changing," said Dr. Leslie Griffin, HC/CI project director and dean of DSU's College of Education and Human Sciences. "Many have said they can visibly see a change.
"It starts with something as simple as just getting up and walking. The change is about a way of thinking — thinking and acting on being active."
Griffin said the project has built a solid foundation for transformation, including the construction of a community fitness trail, expansion of the Delta Health and Wellness Day, increased fitness opportunities, along with countless public events, classes, resources and programs.
"We have been successfully mapping and sustaining this project," said Griffin. "Thanks to the support from the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation we have achieved a replicable model and have engaged with other colleges and universities on sharing this model."
According to Sheila Grogan, executive director of the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, DSU is on its way to becoming the flagship health and wellness university in the state.
"We’re really proud of what has been happening as a result of our partnership with Delta State, and especially the way the university and the community have taken such strong ownership of this initiative and built it into a model for others to follow," said Grogan. "We know that Delta State has the capacity to change the health of the Mississippi Delta through their ongoing work in this project.
"We want to take what we’ve done in Cleveland with Delta State and replicate it across Mississippi, because we know that what you’re doing in Cleveland works," added Grogan. "We know people are getting healthier. We know health and wellness is becoming a common thread in the community. We know that a healthy Mississippi is within our reach."
The 2013 year marks the final round of Blue Cross & Blue Shield's financial support, but HC/CI Coordinator at DSU, Leslie Magee, said the groundwork has been laid and a positive future lies ahead.
"We have begun moving into our sustainability plan; the university and the city of Cleveland have fully committed to adapting the programs," said Magee. "Most of the programs are designed to continue without financial support, however, we will continue to seek additional funding for programs such as OKRA Camp."
Grogan agreed that the last five years have prepared HC/CI for a strong future.
"Part of our vision all along was that it would become self-sustaining over time, as the university and community saw the results and became invested in making sure the program continued to succeed," said Grogan.
"Dr. Griffin and the administration at Delta State have done a fantastic job of bringing the program to a point where they can maintain it," she added.
Griffin and the crew will continue the everlasting effort of changing the local heath and wellness culture.
"The plan is now in place and we have the knowledge to uphold programs," said Griffin. "We will keep organizing appropriate events open to as many stakeholders as possible – from children to senior adults."
For more information on HC/CI's impact, visit www.deltastate.edu/pages/3899.asp.