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MS State Extension AIM for CHangE Initiative

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November 27, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about Mississippi State University Extension's AIM for CHangE Initiative. Hello, I'm Amy Myers, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Dr. David Buys, State Health Specialist, with Mississippi State Extension Service. So Dr. Buys, tell me about what AIM for CHangE is and how it engages our Delta communities?

Dr. David Buys: Yeah, of course Amy. As State Health Specialist, I'm responsible for, and honestly, have the honor of listening to the needs of our Mississippi communities. The obesity epidemic significantly has increased the risk for a multitude of health issues in our communities, one of those is diabetes, and then other chronic issues as well. Really, it limits what a person can do. Simple things like playing with your kids or going for a bike ride or just having the energy to get through the work day are struggles, and that's exactly what inspired me with this opportunity.

AIM for CHangE is a high obesity program, which we call HOP, and HOP has three primary focus areas, nutrition, physical activity, and food systems. Our initiative, AIM for CHangE, makes us take a hard look at, are people not choosing healthier foods and ways of living or are those foods and access to physical activity simply not available. What we've found so far talking with community members and stakeholders is that, really, there's a lack of fresh foods and limited ways in areas for people to get active and stay active. If these opportunities were available, community members would be able to benefit from healthier foods and activities.

Amy Myers: Wow. That is quite an undertaking. How did you select the specific counties you are working with in AIM for CHangE?

Dr. David Buys: Yeah. Well, Amy, it certainly wasn't a hat draw, that's for sure. We're currently working in eight counties, Sunflower County, Washington County, Issaquena, Sharkey, Humphreys, Holmes, Quitman and Leflore. All counties in the Delta. And that's just a mouthful to say. It's certainly an undertaking to take all those on. These counties were selected because over 40% of the adults living in those counties are obese. It doesn't simply mean that they're the most obese counties, it places each person at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and even depression in those counties. People don't often think about the connection between our weight and our mental health, but it's there. For those reasons, that's why our work here is so important and getting support from our communities is integral to reducing and preventing obesity in these counties. We will be expanding into other counties in the state that have high obesity rates as well, but right now we're focused primarily in the Delta and in building relationships there.

Amy Myers: Of course, and that certainly makes sense to start there and expand. This goes back to identifying the need, but where does the funding come from and how did you come to find it?

Dr. David Buys: Yeah, well, interestingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or we just say for short, the CDC, funds our project. We're the only Mississippi recipient of this particular mechanism, this particular funding opportunity, and one of 15 Land Grant Universities working on the high obesity program. In the last cycle of funding, there were 11 recipients, and now, as we've just said, there's 15. And the programs working, they recognize that it's making an impact and they've expanded the opportunities for Land Grant Universities to get involved. One unique aspect of our project is that our communities drive the change. We come up with evidence based strategies, but we are welcomed with the stakeholder and grass roots knowledge that drives what we're doing, ultimately.

Amy Myers: Yes, that is a mighty undertaking, and as you said, truly dependent upon the community. What do you think makes this program successful?

Dr. David Buys: Well, a key finding, Amy, is that each community is different. There is not a cookie cutter approach to make things better, and that's what makes our program successful. Instead of taking that one size fits all approach, we're asking questions first. We're matching express needs that the communities indicate they have with the resources that we can bring to bear to lead to more sustainable results. But again, it's seek first to understand and then to be understood. We've gone in with open ears, wanting to hear what the community says.

Amy Myers: So David, where can we go for more information about AIM for CHangE?

Dr. David Buys: Yeah, just check out Extensions website, Again, And in the search bar look for AIM for CHangE. Search on AIM for CHangE and you'll find several resources, news stories, and information about our project.

Amy Myers: Thank you so much. Today we've been speaking with Dr. David Buys, State Health Specialist at Mississippi State Extension. I'm Amy Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Department: Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion

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