July 18, 2013 10:35:47 AM
For the second time in three years, Starkville was awarded a Healthy Hometown designation by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi.
Starkville earned this year's award in the subcategory for cities of 15,000 or more residents and will receive a $25,000 grant. In 2011, the city earned the overall designation of Mississippi's Healthiest Hometown. Communities which receive that honor are not allowed to apply for awards in the following year.
A committee will convene soon to distribute the grant funds. Monies are expected to provide physical improvements to the city's park spaces and help fund local education and awareness campaigns.
"It's a tremendous honor for the city to be selected again. This is a highly competitive award process in which cities from all over the state vie for recognition," Mayor Parker Wiseman said. "In addition to offering a valuable monetary award and statewide recognition, the designation also provides a wonderful tool for creating a plan of action for improving the health of the community."
Wiseman attributed city policies, including its smoking and bicycle helmet ordinances, as factors contributing to Starkville's overall healthy perception.
"As a smoke-free municipality, Starkville continues to be a role model for other communities looking to create healthier environments for their citizens," Blue Cross Blue Shield's award announcement stated. "Recent research also shows the number of heart attacks in Starkville has decreased more than 27 percent since the ordinance was implemented."
Blue Cross Blue Shield's announcement also credited local businesses, organizations and civic groups, including Mississippi State University's Department of Health and Wellness, MSU on the Move, Gulf States Manufacturing, Starkville Junior Auxiliary, Pilot Club, and Boy Scouts with promoting health education and outreach.
Ridgeland was named Mississippi's Healthiest Hometown for 2013, while Brookhaven received recognition in the 5,001-14,999 city population category. Like Starkville, both cities plan to use grant monies for park improvements.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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