By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi Foundation is extending the reach of HealthWorks!
A $250,000 grant announced Thursday will allow the Tupelo children’s health education center to bring more wacky, healthy learning to schools around the region and pump up school health councils.
“This HealthWorks! site offers fantastic opportunities,” said Sheila Grogan, executive director of the BlueCross foundation. “We’re excited to see they want to go out beyond the site and reach into schools.”
The grant will allow HealthWorks! SHAPE coordinator Kathy Tucker to mentor 10 area schools as they tackle the potentially daunting process of creating and sustaining school health councils. Research has found the councils can be effective in bolstering a coordinated school health approach.
“My role will be to walk them through the steps and help them get comfortable with the tools.” Tucker said. “This is riding the momentum that the (federal) SHAPE grant started” by linking school staff with resources and best practices for health education.
The BlueCross grant also will create a mobile learning lab so that HealthWorks! will be able to take its programs out of the center. Each of the 10 targeted schools will host a program and a community night.
With the $250,000 grant, BlueCross BlueShield will have invested $750,000 in HealthWorks!, making it the center’s most significant contributor. Five years ago, the BlueCross foundation provided a $500,000 grant that helped build the center.“That was the cornerstone event that really made HealthWorks! happen,” said Dean Hancock, president of the Health Care Foundation of North Mississippi, which spearheaded the community effort to build HealthWorks! and oversees the center. “We’ve had lots of success.”
Since HealthWorks! opened in 2009, 70,000 students, teachers and parents have participated in the center’s programs.
The BlueCross foundation has targeted community wellness, especially of children, with some $2.5 million grants in 2011. Tupelo organizations have received about $680,000 in BlueCross grants over the past two years, not including the HealthWorks! grant.
“We’re the largest corporate foundation in Mississippi,” Grogan said. “We’ve now provided grants in every Mississippi county except one.”