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Black Leaders Look For New Ways To Help Mississippi’s Black Community

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 13 Jun 2012 05:03pm | comments
Cara James.

Black community leaders in Mississippi are trying to find new ways to connect people with government services. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports black Mississippians fair worse on many quality of life standards than white Mississippians.

More than one-third of African-Americans in Mississippi live in poverty, leading to higher rates chronic illness, unemployment, and shorter life spans compared to their white counterparts.

Roughly 200 black leaders from around the state met in Jackson yesterday to look for ways to connect people in their communities with services that could help them.

Cara James with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who spoke to the group, says complicated factors lead to the worse outcomes.

"That's a result of diet, exercise, poverty, education, healthy food that are available to you. So if you are in a lower income neighborhood you are more likely to be obese and less likely to be able to exercise, and more likely to have diabetes and therefore the complications that result," James said.

James says health care in Mississippi has improved but the gap between whites and blacks remains.

She believes early detection and reliable access to a doctor are key parts of improving the health of black Mississippians and closing that gap.

Poverty contributes to fewer healthy food choices but Audrey Rowe with the U-S Department of Agriculture says improving access is only half the picture.

"We can have the access. But if individuals don't buy the food. If they have never engaged in preparing the food at home. we are a fast food processed food lifestyle. So how do we change that? And that has been, as we increase the access, the next challenge is how do we change people's behavior," Rowe said.

Johnny Thomas is the mayor of the small delta town of Glendora.

He had concerns about the ability of the government to meet the high need.

Thomas says the programs need to be more streamlined to get help where it is needed most.

"We are part of the government. I want to be transparent. Then allow me, right there where to the rubber meets the road, to get my problems solved. Get the community problems solved. And get the best use of tax payer dollars," Thomas said.

The meeting is part of a series of outreach and policy seminars being held across the country, including others in Ohio and Nevada.

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Cara James.


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