Mississippi College

Gov. Phil Bryant Promotes Healthcare Initiatives

October 10, 2012

Creating a healthcare corridor stretching from Rankin County to west Jackson, training more Mississippi physicians and curbing high teen pregnancy rates are among the state’s most pressing needs, Gov. Phil Bryant says.

“We are the most underserved medically in the nation,” Bryant said in a luncheon speech Wednesday to the Mississippi Healthcare Reform Summit.

Speaking to the third annual conference that attracted 200 healthcare professionals and business leaders to Mississippi College, Bryant gave a sneak preview of next week’s three-city tour to focus on healthcare as an economic driver.

The Mississippi College graduate will make stops in Biloxi, Tupelo and Jackson on October 26 to unveil results of a comprehensive study that details economic opportunities in the healthcare industry. Working with the Mississippi Economic Council, the study will be a “new blueprint on Mississippi healthcare,” he said.

While Mississippi often ranks at the bottom nationwide of per capita income and other economic indicators, “there are some lists you just don’t want to be at the top of,” Bryant said. The Magnolia State’s high rate of heart attacks, strokes and diabetes lead the nation, he noted.

Bryant, whose wife Deborah is a healthcare professional at St. Dominic Hospital, is firmly committed to doing something about it.

After a recent visit to see the healthcare corridor in Houston, Texas, the Republican governor seeks to create something similar that would extend from upper income areas of Rankin County to west Jackson residents. It would serve west Jackson neighborhoods where few people have health insurance. “We think it is a win.”

Other cities around the USA, from Nashville to Orlando, are in the business of creating health care corridors.

Amid severe healthcare deficiencies, Mississippi is suffering from a shortage of physicians. Reports show the state will need an additional 1,000 physicians by 2025, the governor noted.

Some initiatives, including Mississippi College’s physician assistant program, are “vitally needed,” Bryant said. Based at the Baptist Healthplex, MC’s graduate school program began offering classes in May 2011 and now enrolls 60 students. Training professionals to work under the supervision of physicians, the two and one-half year graduate program is the only one of its type in the state.

Putting a greater emphasis on healthcare comes as Mississippi and the nation face major cost challenges and growing Medicaid rolls under the federal Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama. Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney and GOP members of Congress seek to repeal the act that’s become a hot topic leading up to the November 6 election.

Some wellness programs won’t cost much money. An active runner and fitness advocate, Bryant sponsored a 5K race in Jackson that drew 800 participants last summer. Proceeds helped the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The road race and walk started at the Governor’s Mansion, but next year may spread to a trio of Mississippi cities.

The Moorhead, Mississippi native told the audience, including President Lee Royce, that major companies consider healthcare a big part of their employee benefits package. General Electric operates two facilities in Ellisville and Batesville that manufacture jet engines. Meeting with one of GE’s top leaders, Bryant was given details of the company’s wellness program.

The proposals he’s pushing to promote better healthcare can’t wait, Bryant said. “We lead the nation in childhood obesity, and we lead the nation in teen pregnancy,” he said. The same attitudes the nation adopted to fight cigarette smoking need to occur with teen pregnancies, Bryant said.

The Mississippi College School of Business, Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company, the Society for Human Resource Management and the Mississippi Business Group on Health sponsored the conference on the Clinton campus. Other speakers included Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney and Gary B. Kushner, president & CEO of Kushner& Company, and MC business professor Mark McComb.

Photo: Gov. Phil Bryant speaks at the Mississippi Healthcare symposium at MC October 10.

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