Prepared Remarks

Yvonne T. Maddox, Ph.D., Deputy Director

Eunice Kennedy Shriver
National Institute of Child Health and
Human Development
NIH/Jackson Medical Mall
Quarterly Health Series Kick-Off
10:00 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time
Thursday - October 23, 2008

Welcome, everyone. We are excited to be here to celebrate the 2nd year anniversary of the collaboration between the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Jackson Medical Mall. Two years ago, I was honored to kick off this wonderful partnership and the opening of the NIH Health Information Center. Today—several hundred thousand visitors later—I’m delighted to be here again, thanks to Dr. Shirley’s vision, to help with another ground-breaking step.

The need to provide all Americans with the skills to better understand health information, and thereby make healthier choices for themselves and their children, has never been greater. To address this need and expand the collaboration, the NIH has joined with the Jackson Medical Mall to launch a year-long series of health forums for community members and healthcare professionals. We’re calling it “The National Institutes of Health/Jackson Medical Mall Quarterly Health Series.”

The series will provide Mississippians with information on specific health topics including: diabetes, stroke and hypertension, asthma, and mental health. The series will also offer quarterly, continuing medical education presentations for healthcare professionals. It’s our way of giving back to Mississippians. It’s also our way of providing you with the information to better understand and use health research coming out of the NIH. By doing so, you can help reduce your risk and your family’s for many chronic diseases.

The focus of this quarterly health series kick-off is health literacy and its influence on health promotion and disease prevention, which is an important concept that will be an underlying theme for each of the forums. Health literacy includes providing you with ways to communicate better with your doctor, understand drug labels, and to understand and fill-out medical and insurance forms.

Since 2006, the NIH has been working with Mississippi partners—including the State Department of Health, the SIDS Alliance, and many local grant recipients—to provide parents and other caregivers with a better understanding of how to help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. We’re working on a number of community health projects in all nine health districts across the state and several special events have taken place to commemorate SIDS Awareness Month, which happens to be this month.

The NIH is the largest federal agency funding and conducting research to improve the health of the nation. Without research, there would be no treatments for various diseases or other conditions for any one of us. However, without funding, there can’t be any research. Funding for the NIH comes from the taxpayer—from you and me, both.

Many of you in this room or someone you know may be taking part of the most important health study ever conducted, the Jackson Heart Study. This study is looking at the reasons for why heart disease is disproportionately affecting African Americans. Many African American families in this country and worldwide will understand how to reduce the risks for heart disease.

To do this, trust is a key part of that equation. We hope to continue building your trust in us by giving you a better understanding of what NIH does, who does it, why we do it, and how it helps you. That’s why the NIH has created the Public Trust Initiative, a program that provides answers to the “who, what, why, and how.” Through this initiative, we are engaging communities to share health information that you can use. But we need your input and participation. Without both, research can’t move forward. Your participation in clinical trials can lead to better treatments and possibly cures for diseases that affect all of us, like diabetes or cancer. For more information on ways you can get involved, I have an easy Web site for you to remember:

As we’ve said, doing the research isn’t enough. We need to develop better skills to communicate scientific results in ways that are useful and meaningful so that these results can lead to a healthier life. We look forward to working with you as your “Partner in Health.” And we hope that you’ll take advantage of all the informational activities we are launching today, and have lined up for the future.

But, before I close, it’s a great honor to recognize one of the most distinguished citizens of Jackson, and of Mississippi. Some time ago, a young man made a commitment to improve the health of the lives of Mississippians. That young man is here with us today. Through his medical and community contributions, he has inspired many to follow in his footsteps. And, this is recognized through the naming of the “Dr. Aaron Shirley Public Health Complex” for the College of Public Service at Jackson State University.

It is our privilege today, from the NIH, to honor Dr. Aaron Shirley, for his outstanding efforts to improve the health of the residents of Mississippi, with this Exemplary Service Award.

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