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Award brings state recognition to city

Good health is priceless, of course, but earning the title of one of Mississippi’s “Healthiest Hometowns” comes with a $25,000 grant to continue health initiatives here in Brookhaven.

Last week, Blue Cross & Blue Shield Foundation recognized three cities with Healthy Hometown grants: Brookhaven, the winner for cities with populations of 5,001 to 14,999 persons; Starkville, which also received a $25,000 award in the 15,000 or more population category; and Ridgeland, which was named the state’s “Healthiest Hometown” and received a $50,000 grant.

Led by Brookhaven Alderman at Large Karen Sullivan, a local committee completed an extensive application for the Blue Cross grant back in April of this year. The paperwork mentioned the array recreational opportunities in the city and made note of city government’s efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle.

“It’s unbelievable what all we have,” Sullivan said in an April interview. “You don’t realize what we have until you put it all on paper.”

Blue Cross initiated the Healthy Hometown grant program in 2010, but the city wasn’t able to apply until after Brookhaven implemented a ban on smoking in public places, which was enacted in 2011. Blue Cross requires such an ordinance before a city can apply for the program.

Another recent city health initiative was the bike helmet ordinance for children aged 16 and under, also spearheaded by Sullivan.

In announcing the grant, a Blue Cross press release cited the Brookhaven School District’s wellness policy and its child nutrition program, which has been recognized in the Healthier U.S. School Challenge.

Also noted were the city’s many parks and the multitude of activities sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Department.

Also cited was the Brookhaven Farmers’ Market for its healthy eating options.

The release went on to point out the many fitness events throughout the year in the city, including the Mississippi Gran Prix Bicycle race, the South’s largest amateur race.

The article also noted that the city promotes health initiatives for its employees and uses its website to let citizens know about wellness opportunities and local health and recreational activities and events.

“Brookhaven has made tremendous progress in supporting its residents in their efforts to live healthy lifestyles,” said Sheila Grogan, executive director of Blue Cross & Blue Shield in the press release.

Indeed, we have, thanks to the efforts of health-conscious community leaders and citizens. Special recognition should go to Sullivan and the committee for going after the Blue Cross grant. The funding will go toward additional health-related initiatives in the city, increasing our options for a healthy lifestyle and making our city even more of a Homeseekers Paradise.

While the funds are very welcome and will go to good use, the name recognition as one of the state’s Healthiest Hometowns is immeasurable.