Corey Wiggins | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Corey Wiggins

Photo by Jacob Fuller.

As director of the Mississippi Economic Policy Center, Dr. Corey Wiggins has one, simple job: help end poverty in Mississippi.

Wiggins started at MEPC in July 2014. His nonprofit and academic experience includes providing technical assistance to community-based organizations and healthcare organizations on program infrastructure and chronic disease prevention programs throughout the United States.

Recently, the MEPC held a daylong conference in Jackson on ending persistent poverty in the nation's poorest state.

"Poverty is a very complex issue, and there are a number of complex variables that create this situation. Because of that, we need a comprehensive approach to addressing it," Wiggins told the Jackson Free Press in an interview last week.

In Mississippi, 41 of the state's 82 counties have experienced persistent poverty, where at least 20 percent of the people have lived in poverty for 30 years. Wiggins said poverty is directly related to poor-quality education and health care and a lack of generational wealth.

"If (you) want people to have a good education, and you want people to work, then people need to be healthy," Wiggins said. "You need to have good schools, more money going into work-force development programs and making sure that people are able to build assets so that if they run into hard times, they have assets to help them come out those rough cycles."

In the fall of 2006, the MEPC began to respond to the state's need for research and information guiding recovery from Hurricane Katrina. MEPC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts independent research on public policy issues affecting working Mississippians. The organization ensures that lawmakers consider the needs of low and moderate-income Mississippians in the development and implementation of public policy.

Wiggins completed his undergraduate studies at Alcorn State University with a Bachelor of Science in biology. He also holds a master's degree in public health with an emphasis in health policy and a PhD in health promotion and health education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Prior to coming to MEPC, Wiggins worked in the private sector with healthcare organizations and non-profits on issues ranging from access to care, strategic management and health policy. In addition, he held the rank of visiting assistant professor of health policy and management at Jackson State University. He also served as a program manager for a national stroke study aimed at understanding how racial and geographical differences affect strokes.

Currently, Wiggins serves as a W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Network Fellow and as the state health chair for the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP.

Wiggins lives in Jackson with his wife and two children.

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