One Jacksonian is doing her part to make sure all Mississippians are aware of the health disparities in their state.
Annie Baker, 40, has served as the director of community outreach for the Mississippi Institute for Improvement of Geographic Minority Health at the University of Mississippi Medical Center for the past seven years. She is responsible for building academic partnerships to help eliminate health care discrepancies among minority populations in the state.
Two primary partners she works with are the Mississippi Against Obesity Foundation and the Jackson Medical Mall Childhood Obesity Project. The outreach component of her job entails reaching participants through various health fairs within the state.
Baker was born and raised in Jackson and graduated from Callaway High School in 1991. After high school, she attended Jackson State University where she received a bachelor of arts in English in 1995 and a master's of public policy and administration in 2009. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in public administration, with an anticipated graduation date of December 2013.
The focus of her dissertation is early childhood intervention and pediatric development, which emphasizes the influence of diet and physical activity in the development of childhood obesity. She said she choose the topic because of the work she does with UMMC.
"My dissertation is important in helping Mississippi leaders recognize that public organizations and communities have to work together to eliminate some of the health issues in the state." Baker says.
"Working together with public organizations can help conquer health issues in our communities which can help the entire state."
She believes that because Mississippi has the highest rate of obesity in the United State, and because so many diseases are linked to obesity, addressing it as a root cause first is vital.
"Mississippi wants to be first at something," Baker says. "Why not be first to address the health issues head on? We need to get out there and increase our physical activity and make healthy lifestyle changes."
April was Minority Health Month and, as part of their outreach effort, the Jackson Medical Mall Childhood Obesity Project, the Mississippi Against Obesity Foundation, Quest Fitness, United Healthcare, and UMMC joined forces at a Minority Health Field Day event to engage children in physical activities and teach them how to choose healthy snacks.
Baker is married to Christopher Baker, and has one daughter, Taylor, 11. She has long been involved around the metro, including at McWillie Elementary, Jackson Public Schools and with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.