May 19, 2008 Rotogram


PACCAR’s new diesel engine plant is rapidly taking shape east of Starkville.  Today, Lex Lemmers, plant manager, and assistant plant manager Lance Walters report on the development.


No meeting since it is Memorial Day.


Invocation and Pledge: Hank Mosley

Attendance: There were 123 members present (34 exempt), and 84 (22 exempt, 8 honorary) absent.

Guests and Visitors: Visiting Rotarian Robert Trotter, District Health Officer, Tupelo. Guests and hosts included Bob Collins of Joe Thompson, Judy Cooey of Phil Burchfield, Meloney Linder of Rick Smith.

New Rotary Year: The 2008-2009 Rotary International theme is “Make Dreams Real” and begins July 1. President-elect Chip Templeton reminded members that it is time to sign up for committee service. Each Rotarian will be assigned to at least one of our 32 committees.

Templeton also reminded next year’s board members and committee chairs of the leadership orientation at Past President Larry Mullins’ home on Monday evening.

Rotary Minute: Archives Committee Chair Dora Herring. explained that the group compiles and preserves the Club’s history at MSU’s Mitchell Memorial Library. Mementoes and the weekly Rotogram are cataloged.

Banners, such as the ones recently acquired from our French Group Study Exchange Team, are mounted on display boards featured at special events. A scrapbook also is being developed.

Herring added that the committee is developing “a ‘Rotary to the Rescue’ videotape of Roy Ruby’s ‘Absolutely Nothing to do with Rotary Minutes’ for folks who’ve had surgery or are sick . . . and just want to laugh a little while.”


“A very wise general practitioner who helped teach me the art as well as the science of medicine said ‘Remember all of your patients will die.’ We’re not in the business of keeping people from dying. We’re in the business of helping people live as long and as well as they possibly can.”
                                                                                        — Ed Thompson, M.D., Mississippi’s State Health Officer

The function of protecting and developing health must rank above even that of restoring it when it is impaired.
                                                                                                                                                         – Hippocrates

Ed Thompson, State Health Officer, helped the Club explore reasons for Mississippi’s poor standings in many national health indicators last Monday. Focusing on chronic diseases and infant mortality, he stressed the need for preventive measures, saying, “What we practice is not health care, but really is sickness care.”

Joe Thompson, Rotary program chair, introduced his cousin saying, “He comes from a good medical heritage, because OUR grandfather was a circuit riding country doctor in Calhoun County.”

Ed Thompson responded, “During my three-and-a-half years in Georgia, I lived not very far from where our great, great-grandfather is buried. But, that’s a mixed honor because he’s buried on the grounds of the Georgia State Insane Asylum.”

Thompson is in his second tour of duty as Mississippi Health Officer. In between his terms, he was an assistant director of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Infant mortality is the single most important indicator of a nation or state’s health. Unfortunately, Mississippi has historically ranked high in this indicator. Deaths per 1000 live births are nearly double the national rate. Across the U.S., non-white infant mortality is 2 to 3 times that of white births. However, the gap between black and white in Mississippi is narrower than the national trend. Thompson said what is disturbing is that the trend for African-American infant mortality is upward while others are level in Mississippi. Unfortunately, the overall trend line is creeping up.

The health officer challenged the misconception that this problem stems from Mississippi’s having the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the nation. Actually, the state ranks twelfth in the U.S.

“What we do have is one of the nation’s highest teen birth rates,” said Thompson.

However, he said, “Teenage pregnancy, as important as it is for a lot of reasons besides health, is not the explanation of why the mortality rate is high.”

Although Mississippi is a poor state with poorer access to health care, we exceed the national average in prenatal care begun in the first trimester of pregnancy.

The explanation of infant mortality probably lies in infant deaths by birthweight statistics.

“We have an extraordinary occurrence of very low birthweight in Mississippi,” said Thompson. “If we can solve our problem of low birthweight, we can do a great deal toward solving infant mortality.”

Unmarried women have a higher risk of lower birthweight and infant mortality probably due to the inability to afford sufficient health care and the lack of a full family support system. The percentage of all U.S. births to unmarried mothers has steadily risen since the mid-20th century.

Beyond the beginning of life is the issue of years of potential life lost. Mississippi has one of the highest rates of loss in the country. Thompson stressed that this statistic, not the death rate, is the accounting of why people die short of the national life expectancy, currently around 75 years.

Top among the big five causes of the loss are injuries. Thompson says that far and away the majority of fatal injuries come from motor vehicle accidents. However, heart disease and cancer run a close second and third.

Chronic diseases account for 70 percent of U.S. deaths and 83 percent of U.S. health care costs, consuming 16 percent of our gross domestic product. By 2015 such costs are projected to take one dollar out of every five dollars in the economy.

“Smoking is the most preventable cause of death,” said Thompson. “However, Mississippi has increased its rate in the past 5 or 6 years. Going back to the `50s and `60s we were about 25th in nation.”

One of five U.S. adults smokes while one in four smokes in Mississippi. Thompson’s most striking visual showed that 413,000 Americans died in all of World War II while 440,000 Americans die from smoking each year.

Obesity is the other major factor contributing to chronic disease. It is not just a southern problem; the Midwest and Alaska suffer as well.  Seventeen states report above 24 percent obesity with West Virginia and Louisiana joining us above 29 percent. Colorado is lowest at 18 percent. Thompson said a major reason is that the state attracts very physically active people. It is not a matter of inherent health.

Tuberculosis, an old-fashioned disease, remains an issue in the Southeast. In one bright spot, Mississippi is the only state whose TB case rate had fallen in every one of the last 15 years. The state dropped below the national rate in 2001; however, we saw an upturn in 2006.

A scary, but successful, story is syphilis with a case rate that spiked in 1989 as an epidemic. By 2002, for first time since the CDC has kept records, Mississippi dropped below the national rate. Unfortunately, rates have begun to creep back up.

“Why did rates start back up?”  Thompson asked and concluded by answering, “We turned our backs on the problems. No one was there to follow up.”

From 2003 through 2007, Mississippi allowed its number of public health nurses (354 down to 308) and disease investigators (50 down to 34) to shrink.

The State Health Officer’s goal is to reverse the trend; however, he stressed that responsibility for changing our population health status lies with a partnership of the governmental public health infrastructure, the health care delivery system, communities, employers and businesses, academia and the media.

Health Indicator

Mississippi’s National Position

Infant mortality

1st  in 2005; 1st or 2nd from 1997 through 2005; Deaths per 1000 births: U.S. = 6.8; MS = 11.4

Teen pregnancy

12th in 1997; Pregnancies per 1000 females age 15-19 in 2004: U.S. = 72.2; MS  = 70.3

Teen birth rate

3rd behind NM and TX in 2005

Infant deaths

104 out of 483 deaths in 2006 occurred when the mother was under 20

Prenatal care begun in first trimester

MS = 84.2% ; U.S. =  83.9% in 2005

Infant deaths by birthweight

1st in low and very low in 2005; 53% due to very low weight (1500g or less), 16% due to low weight (1500g to 2500g)

Births to unmarried mothers

In 2006: U.S. nearly 40%; MS topped 50%

Accident death rate

2nd behind NM in 2004

Heart disease

MS first in nation in 2004


4th after LA, KY and WV


3rd behind KY and WV


In 2006, MS 1st  at 31%; U.S. 25%

Diagnosed diabetes

In 2006, MS 2nd behind

Dates vary due to differing sources of data

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