Mississippi is again getting a failing grade from two prominent public health agencies for its overall heath statistics. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the president of the Mississippi State Medical Association says teaching children about exercise and proper nutrition could help reverse some of the state's terrible health trends.
Dr. James Rish, the head of the Medical Association, says Mississippi still ranks at or near the top of most negative health statistics like heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Rish says it is time to shift the focus of the fight on these problems to school age kids in order to prevent the problems before they become adults.
"So I think it is important that we start from the ground up particularly with our emphasis this year being school. Most of the behavior that determine one's health are formed within the first few years of school. So I think that is the smart place to start and try to reverse that trend," Rish said.
Rish says physical education, health meals and nutrition information should be a major part of the education curriculum.
The results come as no surprise to the Senate's public health committee chairman Dean Kirby of Pearl who says public health is on the legislature's radar.
"We are working on it. We pass bills every year to help people to improve the health of the state. I feel good about the direction we are headed. One thing about it, we can't going anywhere but up if we are last," Kirby said.
Dr. Rish also called for more doctors and outreach into under served areas of the state to help improve public health.
Rish says he'd like to see more Mississippians covered by health insurance, but the association is not taking a position on whether lawmakers should expand Medicaid.
The issue has split the legislature with Republicans opposing expansion and Democrats favoring it.