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Center for Population Studies
University of Mississippi

Center for Population Studies Releases the Mississippi Health and Hunger Atlas, 2017

May 17, 2017 By | UM Sociology & Anthropology

The University of Mississippi (UM) Center for Population Studies (CPS), an affiliate of UM Department of Sociology and Anthropology, released the 2017 Mississippi Health and Hunger Atlas on May 20, 2017. The MS Health and Hunger Atlas, modeled after the Missouri Hunger Atlas, is the first iteration of its kind in Mississippi and in the South. This Atlas addresses two important issues in Mississippi: high rates of food insecurity and poor health outcomes.

Alarmingly, while national food insecurity trends are declining, Mississippi’s rates are rising. For the last 15 years, Mississippi has consistently ranked among the top two states with the highest food insecurity rate (USDA-ERS). Mississippi also consistently ranks poorly for a number of demographic, economic, and health statistics when compared to national thresholds.

This project is headed by Dr. Anne Cafer, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, and Dr. John Green, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology and Director of CPS, and graduate student, Rachel Haggard. Dr. Anne Cafer, a recent transplant from Missouri, is a new faculty member in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Her work on the Missouri Hunger Atlas has proven useful to a wide array of community organizers and legislators. Wanting to bring the concept to Mississippi, Dr. Cafer quickly found support from community and university stakeholders. With the help of the Center for Population Studies and the recruitment of a talented graduate student, Rachel Haggard, who also has ties to Missouri, the Mississippi Health and Hunger Atlas was initiated and completed in less than four months.

The atlas seeks to shed light on county level variations for a variety of these demographic, health, and hunger indicators. Examining these indicators at a county level, patterns, normally overshadowed by standard macro, national, level analysis, begin to emerge. This atlas is intended to offer a tool for improving assessment of need and performance to promote improved practices and decision-making related to hunger and health in Mississippi.

The atlas has five goals:

  • Raise awareness regarding the extent and depth of food insecurity and health disparities and needs in Mississippi
  • Spread knowledge of what public and private programs are doing to reach vulnerable populations
  • Reveal geographic patterns in the state
  • Provide need and performance measures that can be updated on a regular basis
  • Aid public and private stakeholders to assess their performance and provide a means for improving better resource delivery to the Mississippians they serve

In this atlas, health and hunger indicators are mapped and used to assess need (food security rates, obesity rate, etc.) and performance (SNAP enrollment, primary care physicians per 100,000 people, etc.). The economic and demographic data are also mapped to provide additional information on county level context surrounding health and hunger. This visual, spatial analysis helps community stakeholders, policymakers, researchers, and other practitioners target their efforts and resources to places most in need. Additionally, each county has a separate page which provides their exact rates and rankings for each of the variables.

Efforts to produce this Atlas would not have been possible without support from public agencies like the Mississippi Department of Human Services and the members of the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy Administration. It is through partnerships and collaboration that efforts to reduce hunger and health disparities in Mississippi are possible. The atlas is a compilation of hard work from these partners and faculty and students as well as the resources provided by the Center for Population Studies at the University of Mississippi.