The 2017-2018 fiscal year is drawing to a close and I cannot go without reviewing the policy successes that we have achieved in the great state of Mississippi! Throughout the year, staff and advocates made strides in the areas of early childhood education, STEMI systems of care, and tobacco control.
Early Childhood Education
We started of the fiscal year with some improvements made to the early childcare standards that are regulated by the Mississippi State Department of Health.
The American Heart Association (AHA) advocates for strong obesity prevention programs in early childhood education settings. One such setting, child care, is an important environment for forming good health habits around children's dietary intake, physical activity, and energy balance, thus combating the childhood obesity epidemic. Child care providers are in a unique position to educate parents about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity, while also supporting a healthy environment for children to learn and grow.
As current Mississippi regulations state, toddlers in the child care setting are only required to have 30 minutes of play when in attendance for seven hours or more. AHA recommends moderate and vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes per day day for full-day programs or 30 minutes per day for a half-day morning or afternoon program. During the July 2017 Board of Health meeting, the board voted unanimously in favor of adopting the new regulations which make Mississippi’s early child care regulations some of the strongest in the US.
STEMI Systems of Care
During their April 2018 meeting, the Mississippi State Department of Health officially voted to recognize the best medical centers to treat stroke and STEMI to ensure that the best care is delivered promptly. The board also voted to set up a STEMI Registry. As a part of the regulations adopted, a STEMI registry will also be established. This will allow responses and outcomes of each incident to be tracked in order to discover and implement future improvements in the systems of care. We are excited about the future of improvements in the area of our systems of care that will not only ensure that the best care is delivered promptly, but also save lives.
During the 2018 Legislative Session, four bills were introduced that addressed a tobacco tax increase. Unfortunately, none of these bills made it out of committee.
However, a Senate bond bill - Senate Bill 2048 - had the code sections that address the tobacco tax in it. This allowed the American Heart Association and fellow coalition members to continue to educate legislators on the importance and the need for an increase in the state’s cigarette tax. The bill passed the Senate and failed in the House Ways and Means Committee.
We will continue to build the coalition, educate the state and build legislative support for a significant increase in the cigarette tax. This issue will continue to be a policy priority given the sudden momentum during the session.
How in the world were we able to have so much success this year? It was because we have a wonderful network of advocates that are willing to share their stories and use their voices to let decision makers know how important the health of this state is. We also have a very engaged State Advocacy Committee. Because they are outspoken and active, they were able to reach the American Heart Association's Gold Standard Status for state advocacy committees, which is quite a fete! I, for one, am thrilled with the sphere of influence and experience that they bring to the table and look forward to continuing to work with them on future policy campaigns.