By STEVEN NALLEY
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation has awarded Mississippi State University’s “MSU on the Move” project $562,485, most of which project leaders intend to allocate for a one-mile walking track around Chadwick Lake.
Joyce Yates, MSU director of health education and wellness, said the track will be free and open not only for MSU students, faculty and staff, but also for the Starkville area public at large. She said her proposal for the grant has construction starting in August and finishing in March 2013, but these dates are subject to change.
“What we proposed (to pay for the walking track) was probably 3/4 of the grant, (but that) doesn’t necessarily mean that (is the exact amount,)” Yates said. “Construction costs, we’re thinking, will be around anywhere from $500,000 to $550,000, but that still gives us money for programming.”
Yates said MSU On the Move plans a nine-week program during each semester of the 2012-2013 academic year which will begin and end with free health screenings exclusively for MSU faculty, students and staff. JuLeigh Baker, MSU health and wellness educator, said these screenings are set for 8-11 a.m. Aug. 20-23 and 27-29, with more dates to come. The locations are different each day, she said, and they currently include the Sanderson Center, the Drill Field, South Hall, the Colvard Union Dawg House, Barnes and Noble and Ruby Hall, in that order.
“(Each health screening) includes total cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, body mass index and waist measurement,” Baker said. “The glucose and cholesterol screenings are going to be a finger prick, and for best results, they need to be fasting (8-12 hours beforehand).We did something very similar about 4 years ago called Know Your Numbers. It had a very large turnout. We’re hoping for the same numbers this time.”
Yates said MSU will also deploy a mobile cooking unit for healthy cooking demonstrations at the Sanderson Center, in residence halls and in the Starkville community. Student Dietetic Association members, led by MSU Student Health Center registered dietician Mandy Conrad, will present these demonstrations.
“What we’re going to be doing are simple, easy recipes that people can feel confident in preparing,” Conrad said.
The program also includes a website set to go up the first week of August at msuonthemove.msstate.edu, Conrad said. In addition to a nutrition blog maintained by Conrad and a fitness blog maintained by Sanderson Center assistant director Jason Townsend, Conrad said the website will compile links to nutrition sites and free smart phone apps with strong reputations.
“We’re not just telling people what they need to do to be healthier but trying to pull together resources in one convenient location,” Conrad said.
Yates said this website is also open to the public, and it arises from MSU On the Move’s team brainstorming about what they would want to see in a health improvement program. The team concluded that students are likelier to use apps than listen to lectures, and a website allows for one-stop shopping, she said.
“If you make something easy and convenient for people, you’re more likely to have their participation,” Yates said. “Our program is here to motivate and inspire, not to lecture. I wouldn’t want to do points; I wouldn’t want to have to keep up with calories.”
Finally, Yates said MSU On the Move public service announcements and other promotional footage with MSU football coach Dan Mullen and MSU baseball coach John Cohen are set for local television, MSU websites and locations around campus. She said she hopes for MSU On the Move to become an example for other universities to emulate.
“We want our funders to be proud of our program,” Yates said. “We want to show them that MSU is a leader in healthy habits for higher education. We want our faculty, staff and students to see that this program has made them healthier.”