The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation hosted the University and College Tobacco-Free Campus Collaborative on Tuesday, August 20, 2019. Top levels of leadership from all eight of Mississippi’s publicly-funded universities and thirteen community colleges engaged with healthcare and education experts about improving the health and well-being of students and personnel through the strengthening of campus tobacco-free policies.
“The goals of the Collaborative were two-fold,” said Dr. Thomas C. Fenter, Foundation Board Chairman. “Provide education about the harmful impact of tobacco and e-cigarettes and challenge leaders of Mississippi’s universities and colleges to enhance existing tobacco-free policies.”
Keynote addresses at the Collaborative were made by Dr. Thomas E. Dobbs, Mississippi State Health Officer; Dr. J. Clay Hays, Jr., President of the Mississippi State Medical Association who serves as the Governor’s Appointee to the Mississippi Tobacco Control Advisory Council; Jennifer Cofer, Director of the EndTobacco Program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; and Dr. Robert McMillen, a Mississippi State University professor who provides surveillance and evaluation for the Mississippi State Department of Health’s Office of Tobacco Control.
Dr. Alfred Rankins, Mississippi Commissioner of Higher Education, and Dr. Andrea Mayfield, Mississippi Community College Board Executive Director, also made remarks.
“The Collaborative was great for the living and learning environment on our university campuses,” said Dr. Rankins. “Tobacco-free campuses promote healthier lifestyles among our employees and more importantly, our students.”
“Mississippi’s workforce depends on healthy people,” added Dr. Mayfield. “Tobacco-free policies help shape campus cultures and influence healthy behaviors.”
Nearly $17 million in Foundation grant funds have been invested in Mississippi universities and colleges to implement health and wellness initiatives, and a majority of those institutions adopted smoke-free and tobacco-free policies. With the recent rise in electronic nicotine delivery system usage there is an opportunity to adopt new policies and strengthen existing policies.
“The information shared at the Collaborative provided insight on the addictive nature of vape products that so many of our students see as harmless,” said Dr. Regina Hyatt, Vice President of Student Affairs at Mississippi State University. “Armed with this new information, we will make intentional efforts to educate our students and assist them in making healthier choices.”
“Although our college has a tobacco-free policy, we are missing pieces of the puzzle, including providing assistance to students and employees who want to become tobacco-free,” said Julia Parker, Director of Human Resources at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. “Thanks to the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation for bringing this to our attention.”
“The Foundation’s overarching vision includes support of Mississippi’s universities and colleges as community stakeholders in their efforts to create sustainable healthy campus cultures,” said Sheila Grogan, President of the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation. “The Foundation stands ready to partner with our state’s institutions of higher learning as they explore opportunities to implement and strengthen campus tobacco-free policies.”
The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation has a vision for a healthy Mississippi and provides targeted grants to fund initiatives and programs to improve the health of Mississippians. To learn more about the Foundation, visit www.healthiermississippi.org.
Pictured from left to right: Sheila Grogan, Dr. Thomas C. Fenter, Dr. J. Clay Hays, Jr., Dr. Robert McMillen and Jennifer Cofer