By Lana L. Turnbull
The 25th Edition of America’s Health Rankings®: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities for 2014 was released just a few weeks ago and once again our beloved Mississippi is ranked the nation’s unhealthiest state. I say beloved, because in spite of Mississippi’s failings, to native sons and daughters it is the place we still call home no matter where we currently hang our hats. It’s the place of childhood memories, of family, of community, that lives forever in the mind of our inner child. So hearing that for the third year in a row Mississippi has received the dubious distinction of having the poorest health is discouraging to say the least.
Reading the report about Mississippi’s poor state of health is like getting the news of a serious diagnosis of a close friend or family member. It saddens us. It makes us feel helpless. After all, what can we do to make it better? We only have control over our own lives and health. How can we possibly make a difference for our fellow Mississippians who are not fairing so well?
Just over six months ago Archie and Olivia Manning announced the launch of a campaign to boost the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s commitment to improving the health of the state’s residents. What this means is that the entire Manning family including their sons and their spouses, are lending their name, their energy and their commitment, in partnership with UMMC, to raise awareness and dollars to benefit the state’s biggest healthcare challenges such as heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, dementia and many more.
Well-Being spoke with Dr. James Keeton, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs of UMMC about what the announcement means to the University and the state.
“It is incredibly generous for the Manning Family to make this commitment to working with us to improve Mississippi’s health statistics,” says Dr. Keeton. “There is so much we can do to increase access to quality healthcare throughout the state, but it takes funding to make a difference. In the six months since the partnership with the Mannings was announced, we have already raised over $1million. You can see the impact this can have for the state as we move forward.”
Some of the kinds of programs the additional dollars will help fund are transplant clinics on the Gulf Coast and Grenada, where transplant patients can receive evaluations, workups and follow-up care closer to home. There are also Telehealth programs in the Mississippi Delta and other parts of the state, which connect rural hospitals electronically with specialists at UMMC who can provide state-of-the-art stroke care, ICU coverage and interactive diabetes care and management, with the help of the latest technology. The funds will also go toward research projects to find solutions to some of the state’s serious healthcare challenges such as Alzheimer’s disease, HIV and diabetes.
It was the Manning family’s affection and concern for the state of Mississippi and their partnership with a local financial institution, BankPlus, that led them to become involved with the University of Mississippi Medical Center in the first place. It all began with a visit Archie and Eli made to Batson Children’s Hospital at the request of BankPlus in July 2004 for a “Christmas in July” celebration sponsored by the bank. It grew from there to include a five-year commitment from 2007 – 2012 for fundraising through “An Evening with the Mannings presented by BankPlus”, which raised $3 million for Friends of Children’s Hospital to fund construction of the Eli Manning Children’s Clinics. The Mannings were considering how to continue their support for UMMC in 2012 and these discussions with Dr. James Keeton evolved into The Manning Family Fund. While Archie and Olivia Manning have lived most of their adult lives, some forty years, in New Orleans, like so many other transplanted Mississippians, they both still feel a very close connection with their home state and its people.
Archie Manning shared with Well-Being what led him and his family to join UMMC in the effort to change the fate of healthcare in Mississippi. According to the patriarch of the family, it is a way to pay back their state for the blessings they have enjoyed and to try to change the direction of Mississippi’s health stats for the better.
“We wanted to do something to help our home state, and we turned to UMMC as the flagship of the operation,” notes Archie Manning. “As we have gotten to know the people at the University over the past years, we’ve been so impressed with their commitment, their reputation and their level of care.”
“We all take a deep breath when we see the latest statistics where Mississippi ranks in terms of health,” Manning continues. “Under the leadership of University Medical Center, we believe there is something we all can do about getting us off the bottom of the statistics and make Mississippi a healthier place to live.”
“Both Olivia and I are from small Mississippi towns – she is from Philadelphia and I’m from Drew,” he reminisced. “When I was growing up, there were three doctors offices in town, one who had his office at his home. As I remember it, we went to all three from time to time – I guess whoever was available when we needed a doctor.”
While North Sunflower County Medical Center, just down Highway 49 West from Drew is one of the places Telehealth technology is starting to improve the health of patients with diabetes by connecting them via electronic notebook to clinicians at UMMC, there are all too many small towns and rural areas with no local doctors or dentists to provide even the most basic care.
“We hope we can play a small part in encouraging young, bright physicians to train here in the state, and stay here to practice.” Manning continues. “If we can help do that, we will be building something successful, that will serve the state for years to come.”
The Manning Family Fund represents a chance for the people of the State to take part in improving the health of all Mississippians. When we ask ourselves, what we can do to help get Mississippi off the list as the nation’s unhealthiest state, there is an answer…support the Manning Family Fund Center in their campaign to make Mississippi healthier.
For anyone who is interested in contributing to The Manning Family Fund there are several ways you can give. If you would like your dollars to go to a specific area of healthcare or research such as cancer, diabetes or a program such as The MIND Center that is battling Alzheimer’s Disease, you can designate that your gift be used in that way. You can contribute in honor or in memory of a friend or loved one, or make your contribution a gift from your family, your church, your business or your school. No amount is too small (or too large), and all donations will be used for programs to benefit Mississippi.
Who could be better than the Manning family to understand the importance of teamwork and to find a way to rally the State. Together Mississippians can come together to change our future, by pooling our resources to help all of our fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, from big towns and small, have the chance to live healthy, productive lives.
Donations to the Manning Family Fund for a Healthier Mississippi can be made online, on the fund’s website at www.manningsforhealth.org, or they may be sent to Sara Merrick, Office of Development, University of Mississippi Medical Center, 2500 N. State St., Jackson, MS 39216. For more information, call Sara Merrick at (601) 984-2302.
During the months of January and February 2015, Well-Being will contribute $10.00 from every new subscription, to The Manning Family Fund. To subscribe and join us in supporting better health for Mississippi, visit www.wellbeingmag.com or call 205-647-3068.