Our city deserving of consideration for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize

Published 9:42 am Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring has sprung and things are looking well for the River City. Vicksburg is one of 11 cities in the U. S. that was named as a finalist for the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation works to improve health and health care in the U.S., and due in part to the Vicksburg Live Healthy Action Team, which is comprised of United Way of West Central Mississippi executive director Michele Connelly, city grants writer Marcia Weaver, former Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce executive director Jane Flowers and Shape Up Sister health and fitness owner Linda Fondren, Vicksburg is in the running for the recognition.

The team however, gives credit to the many organizations in Vicksburg and Warren County that offer opportunities for a healthy lifestyle.

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“The cultural health prize is not just about one person,” Fondren said. “It’s not about one program going on, it’s about what the entire city and county are doing to address health issues in our community.”

“It’s not something we did, other than just advocate for all the wonderful things that are happening here in Vicksburg,” Connelly said. “We were the vehicle of sharing the accomplishments of our entire community.”

The application to the foundation highlighted four areas, or accomplishments that included:

4 The fitness and nutrition efforts of Shape Up Mississippi and Shape Up Vicksburg, to provide free health and fitness classes; efforts to encourage African-Americans to have a healthy lifestyle by promoting walking programs in the Vicksburg National Military Park and the “walk with a doc” program, a collaboration between Shape Up Mississippi, Merit Health River Region and Walk America, where doctors walked with participants and answered health-related questions. A community garden at the Vicksburg Municipal Airport

4 The city of Vicksburg’s commitment to improving health and wellness through the development of walking tracks, the installation of a skate park and collaboration with My Brother’s Keeper, to install a new walking track by the skate park and provide amenities at other walking trails and parks, city-sponsored youth sports programs and camps.

4 The Leader in Me Program in the city’s public school system, which helps equip students with self-confidence and the skills they will need to be successful, and teaches them to be creative, set and meet goals, get along with people from different cultures and backgrounds, and how to resolve conflicts and solve problems.

4 The Vicksburg Police Department’s Randy Naylor Street Ball Program in the summer, which helps keep children occupied during the summer evenings, the city’s summer youth employment program, which also teaches the workers life skills, and the Randy Naylor Foundation, which has youth programs to help senior citizens.

If the city wins the prize, Fondren said, it means national recognition for Vicksburg.