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Lincoln County ranks 46th in health — County Health Rankings & Roadmaps puts Lincoln County on par with state

Lincoln County hit No. 46 on a recently-released “County Health Rankings & Roadmaps” — not in the top and not at the bottom — in regards to its healthiness factor.

The report is a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, which seeks to build awareness of the multiple factors that influence health and provide data to help communities identify opportunities to improve their residents’ health.

Comparatively, the top 10 counties were Rankin at No. 1, followed by DeSoto, Madison, Lamar, Lafayette, Hancock, Pontotoc, Smith Jackson and Union.

The bottom 10 counties were Holmes at No. 82, preceded by Coahoma, Quitman, Clairborne, Jefferson, Humphreys, Jefferson Davis, Sharkey, Bolivar and Montgomery at No. 73.

Lincoln was nestled somewhere in the mid-range, along with Attala County at No.45 and Adams and Lawrence counties at No. 47 and No. 48.

Copiah County was ranked at 59th and Pike County came in at 66th. Franklin County settled in at the No. 28 spot in the rankings.

The annual County Health Rankings measure vital health factors, including high school graduation rates, obesity, smoking, unemployment, access to healthy foods, the quality of air and water, income inequality and teen births in nearly every county in America. The annual rankings provide a revealing snapshot of how health is influenced by where we live, learn, work and play.

The rankings for each factor were either on par with the state or slightly better.

Alderwoman-at-Large Karen Sullivan argues with the report. She believes Lincoln County is a healthier community than the numbers show.

She points to the $50,000 grant Brookhaven won in 2014 when Blue Cross & Blue Shield named it the Healthiest Hometown in the state, she said.

The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation established the Healthy Hometown Award to encourage and reward exemplary community health and wellness, she said. 

Brookhaven could have picked up the award multiple times, but Sullivan had to wait a few years to apply again after the big win. She’ll be sending in an application for 2019 at the beginning of the year.

The city took home a Healthy Hometown award for 2013, then won for the best in state the next year.

According to a release from BC&BS, the Brookhaven Healthy Hometown Committee established goals to increase community wellness by providing a variety of activities and resources.

Municipal employees receive free on-site health screenings by local health professionals and discounts at fitness centers with incentives to participate in weight loss programs. Local businesses have also implemented worksite wellness programs to encourage exercise, healthy eating, tobacco cessation and other healthy behaviors.

Brookhaven continues to cultivate a culture of health and wellness as residents of all ages have fun participating in 5K events, she said. The city is home to a Mississippi-certified Farmers Market. The certification comes from the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce to identify marketplaces offering the highest quality products while connecting farmers with the community.

The Brookhaven Farmers Market offers a diverse selection of fruits, vegetables and other produce, while giving consumers the satisfaction that their food origin is right here in Mississippi.

The Farmers Market participates in a senior voucher program, said county agent Rebecca Bates with the Mississippi State University extension service.

Set up through the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, the program distributes food vouchers through the Council of Aging. Recipients get books of five $5 coupons that can be redeemed at the Farmers Market. 

The coupons can be used for qualified food items like fresh vegetables and honey.

“We’ve had the program for about eight years,” she said. “We get a lot of people through the market. It’s been a real win-win for us for the vendors getting extra money and for the seniors getting fresh produce, too.”

Bates doesn’t agree with the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps positioning of Lincoln County.

“I would say that Brookhaven is a healthy city,” she said. “Brookhaven and Lincoln County are going in the right direction but there’s always more to do.”

As far as other factors noted in the report, the Brookhaven Tobacco Free Coalition remains active. In support of the city’s smoke-free ordinance adopted in 2011, the grass roots effort discourages the use of smokeless tobacco and educates children, youth and the community at large about the dangers of smokeless tobacco. The coalition is active in almost all facets of municipal activities and events such as health fairs, festivals and after school programs.

Brookhaven adopted an enforceable helmet ordinance and city police officers visited each elementary school in the Brookhaven School District and distributed a free bicycle helmet to each student thanks to a grant Sullivan procured. The officers also provided training on bicycle safety and information about local cycling trails.

The Brookhaven School District organized a school wellness committee to lead one of the district’s overall strategic goals of implementing a school wellness plan. As a result, students, administrators and faculty members have access to free onsite health screenings and counseling provided by local health professionals. In 2013, the school district received the “Child Nutrition Best Practice” award from the United States Department of Agriculture for the development of low-sodium and gluten-free spice blends and recipes that can be used in school cafeterias.

A link on the city’s website provides health and wellness information related to local fitness centers, sports activities, walking clubs, cycling events and other recreational venues and activities, Sullivan said. Visit www.brookhaven-ms.gov and choose “Healthy activities” on the “Live/Visit” link.

Sullivan said the $50,000 BC&BS grant was used to build a walking trail at Bi-Centennial Park, add fencing and lights and improve the landscaping. Sullivan even planted blueberry bushes at the park.

She said that Lincoln County has a wealth of activities and information available to promote good health.

Senior fitness classes are taught at the Jimmy Furlow Senior Center. The recreational facilities throughout the city offer basketball courts, baseball fields, tennis courts and playgrounds. Some have spray parks.

Several fitness centers and exercise studios are available.

King’s Daughters Medical Center provides medical care for Lincoln County and surrounding areas. KDMC includes a hospital, fitness center, medical clinic, pediatric and adolescent clinic, specialty clinic and a sports medicine, orthopedic and spine clinic.

The complete results of the report can be found at www.countyhealthrankings.org.