Make Pearl River County healthier

Published 7:00 am Thursday, March 22, 2018

For decades, Mississippi has ranked far too high on lists that rank obesity rates in the United States.

According to studies cited by the Mississippi State Department of Health, Mississippi’s obesity rate could rise from 35.5 percent to 66.7 percent by 2030.

According to an article by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are obese suffer from an increased risk of several illnesses such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, depression, anxiety and other potentially life-threatening ailments.

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While Pearl River County ranks at 30.8 percent, which is slightly lower than the Mississippi state average, the fact that nearly a third of the local population suffers from obesity is a grave concern.

To help fight this epidemic, members of the Poplarville Board of Aldermen recently voted to join the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation’s Healthy Hometown Award Program. This program encourages communities across Mississippi to work towards a better “health and wellness culture” by providing grants ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 to municipalities that have made the most effort towards being healthy.

In regards to funds, the program’s information page states, “the grant award is to be used only to improve a municipality’s health and wellness culture.”

Past winners have used the grant to construct elementary school fruit and vegetable gardens, renovate walking trails, install public fitness equipment, improve city parks and more.

While it is currently undecided what would be done with the funds if Poplarville wins the grant money, Board members stated in the March 6th meeting that they were excited to have the opportunity to expand the farmers market, build a community garden or install public exercise equipment among other things.

If more municipalities become involved in such programs, perhaps our state could move toward the other side of those obesity lists. Everyone across Pearl River County should work together to make Mississippi a happier, healthier state.