M’hall votes to establish Mayoral Health Council

By MARLAN JONES,

Karen Womack with the MS Department of Health recently spoke with the Mendenhall Mayor and Board of Aldermen about establishing a Mayoral Health Council.

The Mayor's Health Council is a partnership with municipalities to establish coalitions governed by the Mayor's Office with the responsibility for creating healthy environments.

The environments are established through policy and environmental system changes which support increased access to physical activity, healthy foods and reduced exposure to tobacco smoke.

The Mayor's Council works to reduce the prevalence of heart disease and stroke and to engage key stakeholders to enact policies which support the reduction of risk factors for heart disease and stroke. The initiative was first started in the Delta, and is now beginning to spread state wide.

Womack spoke of the many advantages that are associated with establishing a council. She explained the goal of the council is to make the community a healthy place to work, live, and play. The council will essentially be a group of people who are interested in the health of the city and willing to do the work to improve it. Womack said the council should be made up of people from all walks of life. The first step in establishing the council is for Mayor Todd Booth to nominate a coordinator and to set up a community forum to discuss issues in the community.

She shared success stories of other municipalities such as Vicksburg and Hazlehurst, which have both implemented Mayoral Health Councils. She said the organizations were able to make improvement to local parks and various other places around town.

By having a Mayoral Health Council in place the city will become eligible for grants from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and others for health related projects. Womack provided examples of these projects to the board which included the implementation of “complete streets.” Complete streets insured that each street featured a sidewalk and bike lane to make traversing the city without a vehicle safer.

Once established the health council will operate in an advisory role and suggest changes in policies and other projects to better of the city. An example of a policy change is becoming a smoke free city. The Health Department will be available to the council in an advisory role to assist in any way possible.

Alderwoman Janna Miller has been pushing for the Mayoral Health Council for a while. Miller said, “I am glad we were able to finally sit down and discuss it. This will be a great thing for the city and will go a long way in helping us become healthier.” Miller was proud that the program has been brought to Mendenhall and believes it is a big step in improving the city.

Mayor Todd Booth said, “It will be real beneficial, and I am excited about our city getting healthier.” The board unanimously voted to establish the Mayoral Health Council. The council is expected to be formed soon.