A $196,800 grant from the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation is helping to extend a culture of wellness on The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Park campus in Long Beach. The extension of the Health is Golden campaign, originally launched on USM’s campus in Hattiesburg, is providing recreational activities, wellness programs and educational services to students, faculty and staff.
On Thursday, February 11, Southern Miss officials launched the Health is Golden at Gulf Park campaign with a check presentation by the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation to the University. The check presentation included remarks from Dr. Steve Miller, Vice President for the Gulf Park campus and Sheila Grogan, Executive Director of the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation.
“This grant comes at a critical time in the life of the Gulf Park campus, because it really allows us to build a wellness environment that this campus has never had before,” said Miller. “From purchasing fitness equipment to providing the resources to adequately staff our fitness and health centers, this grant provides new opportunities for our students, faculty and staff to develop and maintain healthy lifestyles that will benefit them long beyond their time at Southern Miss.”
The Health is Golden at Gulf Park campaign aims to provide students, faculty and staff with the education and resources to live a healthy lifestyle. It will also provide an opportunity to partner with community leaders and educators along the Coast to help promote health and provide education in the community.
The establishment of a Wellness Council began in the fall of 2015 and was the first major step in achieving the goals of this project, which is comprised of both campus and community leaders. This group serves as an avenue of communication and collaboration between the University entities in order to obtain maximum support and resources for outreach opportunities and ensure the goals of the grant are communicated and supported by leaders who could influence positive health changes in our community.
“We’ve seen numerous successes among our state’s colleges and universities as they develop and implement campus wellness initiatives that support students, faculty and staff, as well as the community,” said Sheila Grogan, Executive Director of the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation. “There is a significant momentum in campus wellness initiatives, and we are proud to support Southern Miss in its ongoing efforts to promote campus and community wellness.”
Programs and initiatives of the grant are also carried out by the Steering Committee, a group of Southern Miss faculty, staff and students who are committed to implementing a culture of health and wellness on campus. Another aspect of the grant includes a project to recognize “Health Champions” -- members of the Southern Miss family who serve as positive role models of health. Posters have been designed and distributed to promote these champions with the goal that they will influence others.
In addition to educating the campus community about nutrition and exercise, the grant will provide for the construction of a new, outdoor fitness area on the Gulf Park campus.
The initiative will also allow for 70 qualifying faculty and staff to obtain a free membership to the Gulf Park Fitness Center. As a member of the center, individuals have access to a variety of group exercise classes and consultations with a dietician. Throughout the grant, this dietician will work closely with dining services to provide nutritious, easy-to-choose food options on the Gulf Park campus.
“With the Health is Golden grant, we want to emphasize the importance of living a healthy lifestyle through education and programming,” said Kim Beard, coordinator for the Gulf Park Fitness Center. “My hope is that more individuals will begin to value their health and realize that it truly is golden.”
For more information about the Health is Golden at Gulf Park campaign, visit www.usm.edu/gulfcoast/wellness.
The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation is working to build a healthy Mississippi. Through targeted funding and grant making throughout the state, the Foundation focuses on health and wellness initiatives to support Mississippi schools, communities, colleges and universities. For more information, visit healthiermississippi.org.