Mississippi Public Health Institute Encourages Pregnant Women and Breastfeeding Mothers in Jackson, Hancock, and Harrison Counties to Take Steps to Avoid Infection

Media Contacts:
Tennille Collins, Mississippi Public Health Institute, tcollins@msphi.org, (601) 398-4406
Elaina Jackson, Fahrenheit Creative Group, LLC, elaina@fcgworks.com, (601) 371-8003

Partner Organizations Provide Coronavirus (COVID-19) to Recommend Safety Measures for Pregnant Women and Breastfeeding Mothers on Website and Social Media

JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi Public Health Institute (MSPHI), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to engage in partnerships and activities that improve Mississippi’s health, is encouraging pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers in Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties to take measure to protect themselves and their babies during the COVID-19 pandemic. These efforts are part of the organization’s collaborative SHEA (Sharing Health Education & Awareness) campaign, which is the public education and awareness component of a multi-year effort to increase breastfeeding rates among African American women and improve overall health along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnant women and breastfeeding can protect themselves from COVID-19 by taking the same steps as the general public to avoid infection, which include:

  • Covering your cough (using your elbow is a good technique)
  • Avoiding people who are sick
  • Washing your hands often using soap and water for at least 20 seconds or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoiding social gatherings of 10 or more people

Breastfeeding mothers with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or are showing symptoms should take extra precautions, including:

  • Washing your hands before touching the infant
  • Wearing a face mask, if possible, while feeding at the breast
  • Washing your hands before touching any breast pump or bottle parts
  • Following recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use, if feeding with a manual or electric breast pump
  • Considering having someone who is well feed the expressed breast milk to the infant

“We don’t currently know if or how COVID-19 may affect pregnant women and babies, which is why we are encouraging women to take extra precautions to protect their health and the health of their child,” said Tennille Collins, program manager at MSPHI. “Through social distancing, handwashing, and other measures, we can help ensure mothers, babies, and families are healthy and safe.”

For the most current information on COVID-19, visit the MSDH website at www.msdh.ms.gov.  For more information on MSPHI, visit www.msphi.org.

Mississippi Public Health Institute Launches Statewide Fellowship Program to Promote Diversity and Community Engagement in Public Health Research

Media Contacts:
Jalisia Manning, Fahrenheit Creative Group, LLC, jalisia@fcgworks.com, (601) 371-8003
Tennille Collins, Mississippi Public Health Institute, tcollins@msphi.org, (601) 398-4406

African American Women from the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Mississippi Delta Participating in MSPHI’s Community Research Fellows Training Program

JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi Public Health Institute (MSPHI), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to engage in partnerships and activities that improve Mississippi’s health, recently launched the Community Research Fellows Training (CRFT) program, an initiative focused on promoting and advancing the inclusion of underserved populations, including racial and ethnic minorities, in the public health research process. The fellowship training program is part of a multi-year effort to improve the health of African-American mothers, babies, and families.

“Research and community engagement are two critical elements of effective public health efforts,” said Tennille Collins, project manager at MSPHI. “This fellowship program is an opportunity for participants to gain valuable knowledge and skills and for us to get more clear and precise insights on the impact of our initiatives.”

A total of 17 African American women are participating in the CRFT program, including Arreal Bishop (Biloxi); Caretta Brown (Ocean Springs); Deanna Campbell (Biloxi); Alisha Coleman (Ocean Springs); Terra Dickey (Biloxi); Janine Harges (D’Iberville); Tenisha Hasan (D’Iberville); Tyesha Hartley (D’Iberville); Aleshia Jones (Gulfport); Almedia Johnson (Greenville); Tia Magee (Ocean Springs); Anndrea McGill (Pascagoula); Kathy Stafford (Ocean Springs); and Shayla Taylor (Biloxi).

“We are excited to learn with and from this group and look forward to supporting their longer-term efforts to improve public health in their communities,” said Collins. During the 12-week program, participants will engage and interact with community leaders, public health professionals, and researchers to discuss strategies and tactics to improve health in their communities. At the completion of the program, participants will be encouraged to join a local community-based coalition to build on this learning experience.

For more information on the CRFT program, contact Tennille Collins at tcollins@msphi.org or (601) 398-4406. For more information on MSPHI, visit www.msphi.org.

###

About the Mississippi Public Health Institute
MSPHI is a nonprofit entity established in 2011 to protect and improve the health and well-being of Mississippians, serving as a partner and convener to promote health, improve outcomes and encourage innovations in health systems. We cultivate partnerships aimed at program innovation, health resources, education, applied research, and policy development.

Current COVID-19 Pandemic Presents Another Potential Barrier to Breastfeeding for Women on the Gulf Coast

Social stigma. Lack of employer support. Cultural norms. There are several reasons that contribute to Mississippi’s low breastfeeding rate—the lowest in the nation. Many of these factors are also strong contributors to the historically low rate of breastfeeding among African American mothers. The SHEA (Sharing Health Education & Awareness) campaign, which was launched late last year, has focused on increasing breastfeeding rates, promoting tobacco cessation, and encouraging active living with an ultimate goal of improving health of African American families, mothers, and babies.

Then, the coronavirus ruptured the social and economic foundation for thousands of women and families on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, adding yet another barrier to breastfeeding for many mothers. According to the Economic Policy Institute, African American women are overrepresented in low-wage service jobs—the types of jobs that were among the first to be eliminated once COVID-19 began rapidly spreading in Mississippi communities.

Fortunately, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will provide some temporary relief for mothers whose current unemployment can be traced back to COVID-19. However, the stress, anxiety, and pressure many of these women face might make them less likely to consider initiating breastfeeding—a process that can be stress-inducing for some women. In addition, mothers working low-wage jobs often do not have health insurance to cover the cost of supplies and equipment like breast pumps. Even the economic assistance provided by the CARES Act cannot provide enough financial support for many women to get the supplies they need to sustain breastfeeding for at least the first six months—the amount of time recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For those mothers who may have adequate health insurance and are able to work from home, the closures of schools and child care facilities have created an additional set of daily responsibilities. Finding the time and privacy to breastfeed or pump may prove more challenging when mothers are standing in as teachers, chefs, and activity planners.

Despite all of these traditional and unexpected barriers to breastfeeding, we can improve breastfeeding rates among African American women on the Gulf Coast by creating a network of resources and support that provides tools and information mothers need to make informed decisions about their health and the health of their families. Although we have to maintain our social distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we can continue to uplift, encourage, and support mothers and ensure they all have the information and resources they need to be healthy right now and well into the future. When our communities work together to coordinate activities, collaborate on solutions, and build a network of support, we can make a measurable and meaningful difference in the health of African American families, mothers, and babies—and in the health of everyone on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

For more information on the SHEA campaign and valuable tips on breastfeeding, visit www.sheahealth.org.

Mississippi Public Health Institute and Feeding the Gulf Coast Provide Produce and Dry Goods to More than 500 Gulf Coast Families

Media Contacts:
Elaina Jackson, Fahrenheit Creative Group, LLC, elaina@fcgworks.com, (601) 371-8003
Tennille Collins, Mississippi Public Health Institute, tcollins@msphi.org, (601) 398-4406

Organizations work together to provide food to individuals and families affected by COVID-19 pandemic

BILOXI, Miss. – Today the Mississippi Public Health Institute (MSPHI) and Feeding the Gulf Coast (FGC) distributed fresh produce and dry goods to 500 individuals and families on the Mississippi Gulf at First Baptist Church of Biloxi. The organizations worked to increase the number of families they were able to serve and the types of food they supplied in light of the significant economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

“Our service area is experiencing an influx of need from those impacted by COVID-19,” said Dan Emery, newly appointed president and CEO for Feeding the Gulf Coast. “School closures and local job layoffs are leading to an unprecedented need for those who typically may not experience food insecurity. While those that struggle on a daily basis are now in an even more critical situation, compounded by the economic stress the COVID-19 virus has created in our communities.”

The food distribution is part of collaborative multifaceted efforts to support the development of stronger, healthier families across the Mississippi Gulf Coast. MSPHI is specifically working with several partners in Jackson, Hancock, and Harrison Counties, including Coastal Family Health Center and the Mississippi State University Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, to promote health and wellness among African American mothers, babies, and families, including a public education campaign called SHEA (Sharing Health Education & Awareness).

“Ensuring Gulf Coast families have access to fresh and healthy foods is a critical part of improving overall health in these communities, and that’s why we have partnered closely with Feeding the Gulf Coast on this effort,” said Tennille Collins, program manager at MSPHI. “Through two events, we have provided produce and dry goods to nearly one thousand families along the Gulf Coast, but we recognize we still have much more work to do.”

One in five Mississippians struggles with hunger, and Mississippi has had the highest rate of food insecurity in the country for eight consecutive years, according to data from Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused some very particular economic disruptions for families of the Gulf Coast, which may increase the level of food insecurity in communities for months to come.

“Feeding the Gulf Coast is no stranger to working through times of crisis to assist the most vulnerable in our community. Last year, the food bank served the community during the partial government shutdown,” said Emery. “During times like these we see an increased need among people who do not typically face hunger. The threat of coronavirus adds even more pressure to the already strained finances of those we serve and so many more. The food bank remains a critical lifeline to anyone who is struggling with hunger, especially during an unforeseen crisis.”

MSPHI and its partners are also working with community organizations to increase the rate of breastfeeding among mothers in Gulf Coast communities, especially among African American mothers. “Breastmilk has all of the nutrients babies need for healthy growth and development,” said Collins. “However, we know many mothers have anxiety and stress that make it more challenging to breastfeed. We hope we can alleviate some of that anxiety and stress through this event, enabling mothers to concentrate on the health and well-being of their families and themselves.”

For more information on the SHEA campaign and tips on breastfeeding, tobacco cessation, and active living, visit www.sheahealth.org or contact Tennille Collins at tcollins@msphi.org. For more information on Feeding the Gulf Coast, including opportunities to volunteer, visit www.feedingthegulfcoast.org.

###

About the Mississippi Public Health Institute
MSPHI is a nonprofit entity established in 2011 to protect and improve the health and well-being of Mississippians, serving as a partner and convener to promote health, improve outcomes and encourage innovations in health systems. We cultivate partnerships aimed at program innovation, health resources, education, applied research, and policy development.

About Feeding the Gulf Coast
Feeding the Gulf Coast, formerly Bay Area Food Bank, serves a 24-county area spanning south Alabama, south Mississippi and the Panhandle of Florida. Feeding the Gulf Coast is committed to ending hunger in the communities we serve, where at least one in six people struggle with chronic hunger. Feeding the Gulf Coast operates multiple hunger-relief and nutrition programs, including Summer Meals, Afterschool Meal, Backpack, Disaster Relief, Mobile Pantry and Produce Drop Distributions, Nutrition Education, and SNAP Outreach to help address food insecurity.

In 2018, the food bank distributed over 22 million meals to over 400 partner agencies—food pantries, soup kitchens, and other non-profit hunger relief organizations. Since its founding, Feeding the Gulf Coast has distributed more than 260 million pounds of food.

Feeding the Gulf Coast is a United Way member agency and a member of Feeding America.
Our vision is a hunger-free Central Gulf Coast.