From June 3 through 6, four staff from NWA traveled throughout Mississippi as part of a nationwide public health project funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Traveling to Northeast Mississippi (Tupelo and Pontotoc), the Mississippi Delta (Indianola and Greenwood), the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, and Jackson, NWA staff visited six communities across the state in four days. Each regional convening was tailored to the needs and asks of each community thereby allowing attendees to establish or strengthen local partnerships.
The Mississippi convenings kicked off in Tupelo, located in northeast Mississippi. Known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley and home to the headquarters of the Natchez Trace Parkway, Tupelo is a city rich in culture and history. The day began with NWA staff visiting the Lee County Health Department to meet with clinic staff and host a listening session to learn about and address staff concerns and needs. The listening session was followed by a partner luncheon that discussed current infant and maternal mortality initiatives as well as local programming gaps in Tupelo and the larger northeast Mississippi region. Meeting attendees embraced the opportunity to break down silos and identify potential areas for partnership and collectively agreed to establish a maternal and child health coalition in Tupelo.
After the partner luncheon in Tupelo, NWA staff traveled thirty minutes to Pontotoc to tour the local WIC clinic and food center. The visit provided an opportunity for NWA staff to collection stories and photos from WIC participants and engage in further conversation with WIC staff to identify challenges and successes of the local WIC program.
Pictured above: NWA staff and Lee County Health Department staff during the listening session.
Pictured above: NWA staff and Lee County Health Department staff in front of Pontotoc's WIC Food Center.
Pictured below: A WIC participant during his visit in Pontotoc.
The next stop for the NWA in Mississippi series was Indianola, located in the Mississippi Delta. Home to the B.B. King Museum and gravesite, Indianola, Mississippi is a city of historical importance with an active network of local public health partners. NWA staff hosted a partner discussion luncheon, which produced meaningful conversation regarding how local partnerships could strengthen and help address infant and maternal mortality in the region. The prevailing action item identified during the meeting was the need to enhance community/clinical linkages and increase access to local resources through a resource guide. NWA then visited Leflore County Health Department for a WIC clinic tour and held a listening session with clinic staff, allowing us to better understand the nuances of clinic operations in the Mississippi Delta.
Pictured above: Attendees at the partner discussion in Indianola.
Pictured left: A participating WIC family at Leflore County Health Department
The third destination on NWA’s Mississippi tour was the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI). At MBCI, NWA held a half-day partner convening to discuss a variety of topics, including advocacy, the national landscape of WIC participation, and infant and maternal mortality. The convening ended with an in-depth partner discussion luncheon and was followed by a brief tour of the reservation and visit to a satellite WIC clinic. Partners at the MBCI convening were eager to build on the momentum of state-wide infant and maternal mortality reduction efforts and will explore the possibility of establishing a maternal and child health committee for the reservation that could operate similar to the existing review committees in the state of Mississippi.
Pictured above: NWA staff and Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indian's WIC Director, Iva Denson
Pictured above: A WIC family at a satelite WIC clinic.
NWA’s trip ended in the Mississippi state capital of Jackson. The day began with a half-day convening wherein Mississippi State WIC facilitated a discussion on maternal and child health partnerships and explored innovative ways to partner and better support mortality and morbidity prevention initiatives as it relates to mothers and infants. This discussion was then followed by a keynote address given by Dr. Cris Glick that highlighted challenges, successes, and lessons learned from the statewide effort to improve maternal and child health outcomes. The convening concluded with a lunch and partner discussion facilitated by NWA staff that highlighted promising practices happening in the state and ideas for strengthening existing partnerships
Afterwards, NWA staff traveled to the Mississippi WIC state office to meet with non-profit WIC coordinators from across the state and conduct their final listening session for the trip. The day ended with a visit to the local WIC clinic at the Hinds County Health Department.
Pictured above: Attendees at the partner discussion in Jackson.
Pictured above: NWA staff, State WIC staff, and Local WIC staff at Hind County Health Department WIC clinic.
NWA is incredibly grateful to Mississippi WIC and their local agencies for their hospitality and partnership on the NWA in Mississippi series. In particular, we’d like to thank Diane Hargrove, Kimberly Ramsey, and Jameshyia Ballard of the Mississippi State WIC office as well as Iva Denson, Kerri Tettleton, Tawanda Logan-Hurt, and Kristie Nanney for their collaboration and support.