Team Blueprint Health from the University of Southern Mississippi took top honors in the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Social Business Challenge, with Team Addressing Disparities in Dental Care Access from the University of Mississippi Medical Center receiving the silver medal and Team LEE Activity Center from Delta State University receiving the bronze medal. The competition was held February 10 in Jackson and asked students from Mississippi Public Universities to present their ideas for addressing one of Mississippi’s most pressing problems: Obesity and related health issues.
Brittni Echols, representing Team CROP: College Reach Out Program from Alcorn State University’s School of Agriculture, Research, Extension and Applied Sciences, won the Elevator Pitch Award. A senior from Lucedale, Echols is majoring in agricultural economics with an emphasis in International Agriculture.
“The creativity and entrepreneurial spirit shown by our students in presenting these projects was outstanding,” said Dr. Glenn Boyce, Commissioner of Higher Education. “The students participating in the challenge had great ideas for tackling this important issue and were able to work together as teams to develop these ideas into workable solutions.”
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi served as title sponsor for the Social Business Challenge, which gave teams of students the opportunity to showcase their ideas, creativity and ingenuity as they present plans for businesses focused on reducing obesity and related health issues rather than making a profit.
“Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi is committed to supporting the health of Mississippians, and we appreciate the opportunity to support our students as they develop strategic plans to combat our state’s health problems,” said Sheila Grogan, Vice President, Community and Public Relations with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi. “We believe Mississippians understand our own unique health challenges which allows them to develop plans targeting the challenges we face each day.”
Each team developed a business plan, which they presented to the judges in a brief oral presentation at the Institutions of Higher Learning Board Room. The judges for the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Social Business Challenge included: Bob Covington, Minority and Small Business Development Director, Mississippi Development Authority; Dr. Mary Currier, State Health Officer, Mississippi State Department of Health; Mary D. Fortune, Executive Vice President, Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi; Dr. Karen Matthews, CEO & President, Delta Health Alliance; and Dr. Bill Rayburn, CEO, Chairman of the Board, Co-Founder, FNC, Inc.
Open to any public university student, the challenge required students to work in teams of three to six with at least one faculty adviser. Eleven teams, representing each public university, Alcorn State University’s School of Agriculture, Research, Extension and Applied Sciences, Mississippi State University’s Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine and the University of Mississippi Medical Center, competed. The teams were allowed enlist the assistance of professionals or alumni that have expertise in the topic or in building a business plan.
Team Blueprint Health from the University of Southern Mississippi proposed a business that would provide the necessary framework and target worksites for the initial intervention, but also included interventions that targeted the families and communities of employees. Its framework could also be implemented in other settings, including churches and schools, creating opportunity for long-term sustainability. Implementation will rely on a team of “champions” from each worksite serving as lay health advisors (LHA), and leading on-site employee health program implementation. Program success will be achieved by five unique strategies: (1) expert advisory board (2) health champion model (3) workplace environment (4) disease management and (5) community outreach. Comprised of a four-member team including a registered dietitian and exercise physiologist, Blueprint Health will develop guidelines/materials, conduct assessments/evaluations, and continuously guide/train champions, provide materials, and help champions tailor implementation to specific employee health needs.
Team Addressing Disparities in Dental Care from the University of Mississippi Medical Center proposed creating a mobile dental bus equipped with all of the devices, equipment, medical and non-medical personnel necessary to serve children at their school during the school day. By increasing access to preventive and restorative dental care, the mobile dental clinic will reduce dental issues that can lead to school absenteeism. In addition to eliminating the barrier of seeking dental care and reducing the burden on parents to take their children to a dental visit during the school/work day, the interactions with the dental care professionals will also give them the opportunity to educate the children about proper oral hygiene and other health issues, including proper nutrition and exercise.
Team LEE Activity Center from Delta State University proposed an after-school program for children in kindergarten to sixth grade featuring activities to combat the high overweight and obesity rates of the youth of Mississippi. The proposed after-school program would provide physical activities, positive role models, nutritious snacks, information on healthy habits and proper nutrition, along with tutoring and homework assistance.