Health goals earn funding for wellness project


Mississippi State members of the Student Dietetic Association will present monthly cooking demonstrations as part of the "MSU on the Move" program. PHOTO: Megan Bean | University Relations

Mississippi State's efforts to help individuals on campus develop healthy habits and pursue overall wellness will be bolstered with more than a half million dollars in grant funding.

The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation awarded the university's "MSU on the Move" project $562,485 to support programs that strive to promote a healthier culture throughout campus and in the surrounding local community.

"The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation provides targeted grants to improve the health of Mississippians," said Sheila Grogan, executive director. "We applaud the efforts of Mississippi State University to promote a culture of health and wellness on the campus that extends into the Starkville community."

Additional information about the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation can be found at

Joyce Yates, director of health education and wellness and the grant's principal investigator, said Mississippi State has long promoted healthy choices on campus. The grant will further equip programs working to promote total wellness--everything from regular exercise to choosing nutritious foods and appropriate meal portions.

"In the university environment, we are trying to encourage our students to develop habits that will help them achieve lifelong health and wellness. We want to educate and empower MSU students to live healthy lives through the choices they make today and the habits they develop for the long-term," Yates said.

She explained that healthier students are better able to achieve their educational goals.

"This is central to our core function of teaching, and it enhances overall quality of life," Yates said. She added that programs also are available for faculty and staff, with many opportunities for anyone on campus or in the Starkville community to learn how to implement healthier behaviors into their lifestyles.

The "MSU on the Move" project will promote better nutrition practices and increased exercise with support of BCBS Healthiest Hometown.

"We want to change our culture from one that understands and practices some healthy habits to one that truly prioritizes exercise and good nutrition in a way that is more widespread than ever before," Yates said.

Bob Collins, director of university health services, said, "This grant from the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation provides the university with a vehicle to expand health education and wellness offerings, and allows us to work on turning the tide of obesity by demonstrating proper nutrition. I am grateful to the foundation for recognizing the value of this proposal and funding its implementation."

MSU athletes and coaches will support the program by taking part in a public service media campaign to help influence people in the Starkville and MSU communities to seek healthier behaviors.

The grant will fund a walking track around Chadwick Lake, adjacent to the university's Joe Frank Sanderson Center. Yates said the one-mile loop will not only offer a healthy alternative to a sedentary lifestyle, but will add an aesthetic reward to participants' exercise routines.

A nine-week nutrition and exercise program will be administered twice, once during each semester of the 2012-2013 academic year. Free initial and post-program screenings for blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol, and body mass index will be included, and ongoing web resources in support of the program will be available for all participants.

Additionally, a mobile cooking unit will be utilized for healthy cooking demonstrations on campus and in Starkville. Offered on a monthly basis, these events will reinforce healthy nutrition practices, introduce resources and recipes, and provide opportunities to enhance healthy cooking skills. Among other topics of interest will be nutrient highlights and budget- or time-limited options.

Mandy Conrad, Student Health Center registered dietician, and Student Dietetic Association members will present the cooking demonstrations.

Under Yates' leadership, a team of professionals and student volunteers will administer the project. In a state that continues to rank high in rates of obesity and sedentary lifestyles, Yates and other coordinators are hoping for high rates of participation in "MSU on the Move."

"Changing our culture--or even one individual's habits--does not happen overnight. This program will provide the support and resources to make positive change doable for anyone. With many individuals taking steps to better health and wellness, we will see a widespread cultural shift toward a healthier community," Yates said.

Bill Broyles, assistant vice president for student affairs, agreed with Yates about the direction the university is taking.

"I'm pleased to see the efforts of the MSU community in achieving health goals that continue to support the institution as one of the healthiest campuses in the U.S.," Broyles said.

Allison Matthews | University Relations

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