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Report to the People

Healthy Mississippi Children Major Concern As Insurance Costs Rise To All Time High

I strongly supported passage of the Mississippi Healthy Students Act, which was passed in the 2007 Legislative Session.  Recognition of the tremendous healthcare needs of our state, including the highest mortality rate in the nation as well as the highest obesity rate in the nation, caused the Legislature to enact the Mississippi Healthy Students Act in the 2007 Legislative Session.

One of the provisions of the Act requires that there be 150 minutes per week of physical activity-based instruction and 45 minutes of health education instruction as defined by the State Board of Education for each student in each school district in the state of Mississippi for grades Kindergarten through Eighth grade, beginning in the 2008-2009 school year.  The Act requires that all instruction in physical education, health education and physical activity must be based on the most current state standards provided by the state Department of Education.

Beginning in the 2008-2009 school year, the Bill also requires each local school board to adopt a school wellness plan to promote increased physical activity among youngsters, healthy eating habits, and abstinence from tobacco and illegal drugs through programs which incorporate healthy lifestyle choices in the core subject areas.  The wording of the Act requires the State Board of Education to adopt regulations, no later than March 1, 2008, which will be effective for compliance by school districts for the 2008-2009 school year.  The Act says “the regulations shall take into account the most recent and advanced scientific principles regarding good human health and fitness, and the effect of the regulations must be that the good health, well being, and fitness of Mississippi school children shall be advanced.”  There are other specific requirements that the regulations will require to be addressed, such as healthy food and beverage choices, healthy food preparation, marketing of healthy food choices to students and staff, and similar areas of concern.

There was a great deal of opposition, often on a partisan basis, to the proposals contained in the Mississippi Healthy Students Act when it was first considered by the Mississippi House of Representatives.  I firmly supported the principles contained in the Act and the majority of House members did as well.  The final proposal from Conference Committee came closer to the stronger position advocated by many in the House than the weaker position that was supported by those who did not feel that child health needs needed to be addressed as we did in the Mississippi Health Students Act.  

The State Board of Education will be seeking public input and will have public hearings on the regulations that they are developing in regard to the health and physical activity requirements that will be imposed on Mississippi youngsters attending a public school and upon the nutrition related regulations that will be promulgated as well.  It is very important that the people in our state recognize the importance exercise and physical activity play in promoting healthy lifestyles.  I believe that State Government has a very important role in encouraging better health care and healthier lifestyle choices.

  I am very concerned that the percentage of children in Mississippi without health insurance is skyrocketing as is the percentage and number of Mississippians in general who lack health care.  I think it is very important to promote good health, that we take all steps necessary, on a bipartisan basis, to provide that working Mississippians and their families can have access to affordable healthcare.

 If I can be of  any assistance to you please call on me.  My phone number in Jackson during the session is (601) 359-3365.  The phone number in my Charleston office is (662) 647-3203, and my residence phone number is (662) 473-2571.  I can also be contacted by writing me at my home address of 15 CR 429, Water Valley, MS 38965, or at my office address of   P.O. Box 220, Charleston, MS  38921.

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