Grant to fund Delta health survey

Bryn Stole, Greenwood Commonwealth

A group of community networkers are surveying residents of Leflore, Holmes and Tallahatchie counties about their health and access to medical care as part of a three-year grant awarded to Greenwood Leflore Hospital.

The program is looking to improve access to health care and knock down barriers to healthier living among black residents living with chronic diseases, including diabetes.
The work is being funded by a Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) Award from the Centers for Disease Control. The hospital is one of 17 nationwide to receive the grant, which aims to help reduce chronic diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities and control health-care spending.
Dodie McElmurray, the hospital’s chief operations officer, said the surveys and a series of focus groups in all three counties are the first steps toward understanding some of the challenges standing in the way of improving health.
“We can tell a patient, ‘You need to walk, you need to eat right, you need to do all these things,’” McElmurray said. “This is to put some support out in the community to help them be better able to do that.”
Some diabetics told by a doctor to get more exercise might struggle to get outside to walk because of stray dogs roaming their neighborhoods, McElmurray said. Others have pointed during focus groups to a lack of grocery stores in towns like Tutwiler and Itta Bena.
Although the grant funding isn’t designed to launch animal-control programs or open a market, McElmurray said they’ll be working with patients — as well as community and church groups — to help find creative ways around those challenges and to connect patients to resources and services.
“A lot of what’s going to happen with this grant won’t happen in these walls,” McElmurray said in a conference room at the hospital.
As part of the project, the hospital is working with its Partners in Health Coalition, which includes local governments, schools, health-care providers and businesses, and has also been reaching out to faith-based organizations in the three-county area.
Ultimately, McElmurray said, the program will look to implement a number of steps to help prevent and treat chronic diseases among black residents in the hospital’s service area — specifically tailored to the challenges residents in this area face.
The community networkers, who are visiting churches, gathering places and residents’ homes, will survey about 10,000 people. Participation in the survey is free, voluntary and confidential. For more information, call the hospital at 451-7165.