Edney: Mississippi’s public health system can no longer be down
Published 3:41 pm Tuesday 18 October 2022
The Mississippi State Physician is calling out, seeking public support for an important task – improving Mississippi’s health care system.
The state is at the end of its rope on so many health issues, said Dr. Dan Edney and it’s time to make a change.
“Every doctor in this state is fed up with us suffering from the health indicators and being on the forefront of the challenges,” he said. “We, as doctors, know that we don’t have to be there. At this point in society, we choose to be different.”
Edney’s comments came at a Sunday reception honoring his election to the state’s chief health officer and Vicksburg native Dr. Justin Turner as the state’s chief medical officer.
“As I speak across the state, this is the message: we need to come down from the bottom, because when we get to the bottom, it means people are dying prematurely,” Edney said. “We cannot unnecessarily have people suffering from any type of diabetes or high blood pressure.
“We cannot have the highest infant mortality rate in this country; We will not accept that as Mississippi we are fit people, we love our communities, we love our families and our friends,” he added. “Our main mission, I think, is to raise awareness about the struggles out there.”
According to the Center for Mississippi Health Policy, Mississippi’s infant mortality rate remains the highest in the country at 8.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 6 deaths per 1,000 live births as the US maternal mortality rate is 22.1 per 100,000 live births. The national average is 17.47.
“We need to improve our healthcare experience,” Turner said of the maternal death rate.
Edney said improving medical care in Mississippi will be a challenge, but he and other health officials and health care providers are ready to take it on.
“Everyone is rolling up their sleeves and working hard,” he said.
Edney said the lessons health officials have learned working with communities during the pandemic have taught them to listen to communities and work to develop a strategy to improve care and be ready to adapt it to the needs of different people adjust areas of the state.
“The Mississippi Delta is different than the southwestern Mississippi Pine Belt,” he said. “They are different worlds and we have to look at them differently and they have different challenges, different resource challenges, inequality challenges, outcome challenges, and we have to look at each one differently.”
And Edney added he’s optimistic the state can make the change.
“I am convinced that we can do this and that is because we have achieved such an improvement in education; We were 50th in education my whole life. We can do this. We did it in education; We can do it with the health program,” Edney said.
“If you know the Delta as well as we do, we understand the challenges our patients face every day in the Delta,” he said. “There are solutions: my job is to raise awareness and guide us to bring a coalition together and we’re doing it together.”
And that will require leadership, he said, not just from the medical profession, but from corporations, churches and academics.
“It’s an attitude; an action, and when we do that, it requires some money; it’s not free,” he said. “If we choose to invest in public health, prove we’re putting money where we need it, we’ll hit bottom. Fair warning: we will not be the last.”
“If we can go from 50, where we are today, to 35, where education is now, then fewer orphans will go into foster care because mom died of pregnancy, there will be fewer mothers crying because their child died unnecessarily at 6 months; It’s a senior who doesn’t live alone because their spouse died early from diabetes or high blood pressure,” he said.
There are real problems and there are solutions, Turner said.
“Be ready, watch out,” Turner said. “We’re mobilizing the troops, we’re putting together special forces; We are changing Mississippi for the better.”
When he talks about improving health care in Mississippi, Edney says no one challenges him, adding that afterwards they come to him and ask what needs to be done.
“Leaders understand what people want, what people expect, and we have some tough decisions to make. Come with us,” Edney said. “We work better together; together we are stronger. Change cannot wait. We have to get down from below.”