As home to one of the most awarded and comprehensive health-care systems in the state and Mississippi’s first Certified Medical Fitness Facility, it’s no wonder Tupelo was named the Healthiest Hometown by BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi Foundation. In fact, the city has been recognized nationally as a leader for health and wellness initiatives, such as HealthWorks!, and interactive health education facility for kids, designed to create a more active and healthy culture.
Comprehensive Care, Close to Home
Anchoring Tupelo and Lee County’s health care community is North Mississippi Medical Center, the flagship facility of North Mississippi Health Services and the largest, private, not-for-profit hospital in Mississippi as well as the largest non-metropolitan hospital in America. Recipient of the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the 650-bed NMMC offers a full menu of services, including emergency services, obstetrics and gynecology, cancer care, cardiology and behavioral health. The Level II trauma center is equipped with an acute stroke unit, a heart and vascular center as well as a joint replacement center.
The hospital continues to add services and upgrade its facilities, recently adding hematology and oncology to its list of cancer care services and opening a new West Bed Tower. But perhaps the jewel in the health system’s crown is the NMMC Wellness Center, one of the most comprehensive health and fitness facilities in the region. The 50,000-square-foot facility features an indoor pool, outdoor and indoor tracks, basketball, racquetball and Wallyball courts, an outdoor sand volleyball court and a therapeutic day spa.
The hospital also sponsors Families in Formation, F.I.T., at HealthWorks!, a health education and fun exercise program for children and their parents. HealthWorks! was established to help tackle childhood obesity and inactivity in the Tupelo region.
“HealthWorks! was envisioned by the Healthcare Foundation at North Mississippi Medical Center about 10 years ago when community leaders were looking to provide a service to combat childhood obesity and serve our region within that mission,” says Kathy Tucker, coordinator of Outreach and Innovation for HealthWorks!.
Housed in a renovated grocery store, the program serves children in Tupelo and 22 surrounding counties. Students take field trips to HealthWorks! or visit with their families to learn about nutrition, health and fitness through a series of interactive games, activities and experiences.
Tucker says the program has expanded to serve as an educational tool for the entire community – both children and adults.
Community Focused Care
“We've developed the program to include sort of a tri-level approach where we're not only educating children about health and fitness, but we’re also reinforcing that information by educating their schools and teachers and their families, which really helps complete the circle,” she says. “Our family nights have become important as well as the professional development that we offer to schools, whether it be to P.E. teachers or to health education teachers, school nurses or school nutritionists.”
“Good health is really a set of behaviors and attitudes towards those behaviors,” Tucker adds. “So, if we start with the children and develop those healthy habits now, they will have those habits for a lifetime, helping them avoid chronic disease and become healthier.”
Tucker says one reason Tupelo has led the state in terms of health and wellness is the collaboration within the health-care community.
“It’s really important to recognize how far Mississippi has come in recent years in the attention we pay to overall health and children's health. One reason for that is that the collaborations have become stronger. We are able to work with a lot of different people that are all working toward the same goals,” she says. “Before, many organizations were working toward a common goal – independently – but over the years, HealthWorks! has been able to partner with other organizations to work toward this overall common goal and share resources and share our talents with each other so that we can make this region and this state a healthier place.”