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Connecting in Mississippi

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Gulfport, Mississippi to partner with EWSE Leadership Team member Juanita Graham and her colleagues on promoting the life course approach to reducing infant mortality.The focus of my trip was a presentation to the District 9 FIMR Teams (fetal, infant mortality review) coordinated by Mary Craig and Cheryl Doyle, both experienced and dedicated leaders on this project. Teams have now reviewed over 50 cases and 7 area hospitals have introduced some new policies and classes, particularly around SUIDS risk reduction. The group is now eager to expand their thinking about new approaches to preventing infant death. The meeting was very well attended, including several staff from the state health department in Jackson. The group had a lively discussion about life course and shared ideas about how it could be applied in Mississippi. 
Part of the trip included the chance to network with Juanita’s colleagues on behalf of the coalition. My visit happened to coincide with the MS Nurses Association Conference which was themed “Hunting for Evidence-Based Practice” (thus the camo gear). I had the great opportunity to go with them on an evening boat ride in the Gulf. The sunset over the Gulf was amazing and those MS nurses know how to have fun! I also had the chance to recruit some new members to the state team and learn about the MS Coast Interfaith Task Force which is doing some fantastic work on community resilience, access to health care, life planning for 8th graders and more.
While the landscape is lovely and the people are really warm, Mississippi faces many challenges, including poverty, obesity, few resources for programs and high rates of maternal mortality. Fortunately, the state also has a cadre of nurses and public health leaders who are determined to make change happen. Seeing how the community has rebuilt from two recent disasters (Katrina and the oil spill), it was clear that the people of Mississippi are resilient. Hearing that in 2012 Mississippi has achieved its lowest rates of infant mortality ever (while other Southern states have seen increased rates or stagnation) absolutely affirms that these leaders are making a difference. We look forward to connecting with new colleagues and continuing to build the  Mississippi Connection!

Savannah Cooksey, Connie Bish, Juanita Graham, Cheryl Doyle, Sarah Verbiest and Mary Craig (start top left to right)

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