skip to main content
Center for Population Studies
University of Mississippi

New Pathways to Health Initiative

A collaborative partnership between the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Services Center, Inc., Dreyfus Health Foundation of The Rogosin Institute, Mississippi Hospital Association Foundation, Tri-County Workforce Alliance, and the University of Mississippi Center for Population Studies, supported in part by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The New Pathways to Health Initiative was developed to promote healthy behaviors and enhance educational and mentorship opportunities in the Delta region of Mississippi, creating pathways for young people interested in pursuing careers in healthcare and ultimately improving access to care for vulnerable families. In May 2013, the Initiative was expanded to serve more people.

As a region with high poverty, low educational attainment and low median household income, many Delta residents also lack adequate access to healthcare (US Census Bureau, 2007-2011 ACS). The area experiences extremely high rates of obesity, heart disease, and hypertension (CDC, 2012). Rates of preterm birth in the Delta are increasing despite advances in medical technology to improve birth outcomes (Green et al., 2012), and although often considered an urban problem, asthma rates in the area are comparable to those in large cities (Green & Phillips, 2011). The region is also designated as a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) by the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA).

Despite the many health and socioeconomic challenges in the Delta region, there is substantial energy among a number of organizations to tackle these problems and increase opportunities for youth and communities in the area. The Dreyfus Health Foundation of The Rogosin Institute (DHF) first began working in the region in 2003, introducing its Problem Solving for Better Health® (PSBH®) methodology, which draws on community strengths, resources, and participation to address health-related challenges. Building on prior PSBH projects and an ever-evolving network, DHF has partnered with the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Services Center, Inc. (AEH), Mississippi Hospital Association Foundation (MHA-F), Tri-County Workforce Alliance (TCWA), and the University of Mississippi Center for Population Studies (CPS) to create the New Pathways to Health Initiative.

The program includes extensive collaboration with Community Health Centers, schools of nursing, and other community-based organizations to engage middle, high school, and college students, as well as adults interested in health-related fields with the goal of growing the Delta’s healthcare workforce from within the region. The W.K. provides funding to this initiative.

The New Pathways to Health Initiative serves five counties in the northern area of the Core Delta region of Mississippi. These counties are: Bolivar, Coahoma, Quitman, Sunflower, and Tallahatchie.

Program Components

Middle School Academy

The pathway begins with students in grades 6-8 who participate in year round programming through TCWA, including workshops on test taking skills, study habits, teamwork, conflict resolution, time management, and stress management. Students become CPR certified, visit healthcare facilities, and meet panels of people working in different facets of healthcare. They attend a PSBH workshop, where they develop plans to address health related challenges in their communities, and they complete a wellness project, where they worked with a friend or family member with a chronic disease. Through the wellness project, they research the condition, work with a local doctor or nurse who treats the illness, and develop a wellness plan to help the friend or family member manage the disease. The middle school students also attend the Summer Academy in Science, Mathematics, and Reading, which is an intensive month-long summer program with coursework to prepare them for high school. During the summer institute, the students also conduct an in-depth study of a part of the body or a disease prevalent in their communities. In previous years, students have studied the heart and the kidneys.

High School Mentorship Program

Along with the Middle School Academy, the high school mentorship program is run through TCWA. Like the middle school program, participants attend year round workshops, field trips, and become CPR certified. In addition to sessions on study habits, time and stress management, and conflict resolution, students also attend sessions on college readiness, including ACT preparation and financial aid/budgeting trainings. In order to gain more exposure to careers in healthcare, the high school students participate in job shadowing at a hospital or clinic near where they live. Students are assigned a doctor or nurse mentor, and spend a minimum of 60 hours throughout the year shadowing them and journaling about their experiences. Additionally, high school students participate in an intensive summer institute geared towards college preparation.

School Health Councils

According to school health legislation, schools in Mississippi are mandated to have Health Councils to address different children’s health-related needs. Despite the legislation, many schools either do not have a health council, or have inactive councils. As part of the New Pathways to Health program, AEH and TCWA are partnering with schools in Coahoma County to develop school health councils and engage youth in the work of the council. Of the schools that do have councils, many are made up of only adults. The New Pathways to Health school council component aims to empower youth to work towards healthier schools.

Certified Nursing Assistant

As participants in the high school nursing mentorship program complete high school and age out of that program, they become eligible to take a course to become certified as a nursing assistant. The course, which is run by ONW, takes place in the summer months following graduation, and by the end of July, participants have completed the necessary requirements to take a certification exam. This certification provides these students with credentials to be able to get an entry level nursing job immediately following high school.

Dedicated Education Units

Dedicated Education Units (DEUs) provide hands on clinical training to nursing students by strengthening collaboration between hospital management, staff nurses, students, and nursing faculty. In a traditional clinical training model, six to ten nursing students are paired with one faculty member with whom they move about a unit. Students have minimal interactions with staff nurses or patients, and have few opportunities for hands-on experiences. Unlike a traditional clinical model, DEUs pair students with staff nurses who provide mentorship and training through one-on-one shadowing. Selected staff nurses are trained to be Clinical Facilitators (CFs), and work directly with students, teaching them technical skills and showing them what daily life is like as a nurse.

Organized by ONW, DEUs leverage existing resources by building academic-service partnerships that enhance training for staff nurses and students.

Community Health Worker Training

Community Health Worker (CHW) trainings are provided for adult community members who are not currently in school but are interested in pursuing a career in healthcare. Through this 160-hour training, participants gain the skills to provide health education, advocacy, and support to members of their communities. The training, which is conducted by AEH, takes place over the course of six months, and provides opportunities for participants to start working while still completing the training, helping them to earn money while they learn.


Phillips, M., J. Green, and V. Parks. 2013. “Charting New Pathways to Health in the Mississippi Delta: Comprehensive Program Evaluation Report. A Report Submitted to the Dreyfus Health Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.” University, MS: The University of Mississippi Center for Population Studies.