Grant to School of Public Health will develop safe, walking environment in medical mall

Jackson State University’s School of Public Health (SPH) received a modest grant to support and encourage a safe, accessible walking environment inside the Jackson Medical Mall (JMM).

Out of 600 applicants, JSU was one of only 20 earning a Community Change Micro Grant that was awarded by America Walks, a nonprofit national organization. It aims to encourage communities to make America a better place for healthier living.

Dr. Yolanda Barner in the School of Public Health said the grant focuses on getting more people involved in physical activity.

Dr. Yalanda Barner in the School of Public Health said the grant focuses on getting more people involved in physical activity.

This year’s projects are supported by various partners, including the Juliet Ashby Hillman Foundation; Lyft; the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD); and WalkBoston.

Awardees will work with America Walks and other members of the “Every Body Walk! Collaborative” to successfully complete their projects and share their lessons with other community change agents. While the projects and programs work to improve walkability, the results of each grant will have a positive change on many areas of that community, according to America Walks.

Dr. Yalanda Barner, director of marketing and field placement for SPH, spearheaded the grant through its “(em)Power Walking Program,” which targets the medical mall’s walking environment.

Barner said, “We are happy to have received a grant from America Walks because of the School of Public Health’s commitment to improve the health of individuals. This will help us get the community more involved in physical activity. Additionally, as the recruiter for the School of Public Health, I am excited to bring new programs to the school that will provide opportunities for current and future students to gain experience in a variety of public health programs.”

America Walks executive director Kate Kraft, said, “Through our work, we know that when local community change agents work to get their neighborhood on the walking path, great things happen.” Also, she said, “Each of these grantees has a vision of how improving conditions for walking can lead to healthier communities. Our hope is that the work of these grantees will inspire action across the U.S. to create communities where all can be active, healthy and engaged.”

JMM offers comprehensive services that include healthcare, social services, dining, community activities and shopping. As well, it serves as a haven for physical activity with patrons walking the perimeter of the mall for exercise daily.

Approximately 5,000 vehicles appear at the mall daily, with more than half of the occupants coming for medical care. Currently, the walking trail is used by less than 1 percent of patrons per day. The “(em) Power Walking Program” aims to increase the use and improve health.

The program will install mile markers along the mall perimeter; signage to encourage the use of stairs; 15-minute empowerment sessions; and educational information to encourage walking.