History & Achievements

MPHA has a long and proud history of working to improve the education and status of public health workers and to advocate for policies to improve the health of all Mississippians. We have made incremental strides to organize, grow and diversify our Association and its efforts to develop a culture of health for our State.

Convening with the appointed members of the Mississippi State Board of Health and county health officers in 1936, Dr. Felix J. Underwood presented his vision of having a state public health association for the purposes of assuring current and ongoing education, professional development, and collaborative working relationships for the public health workforce in Mississippi. At the time, Dr. Underwood was an active member of the American Public Health Association and recognized the benefits of providing current education and information for all public health workers and interested parties. A motion was made at this 1936 meeting with a unanimous vote both to establish a state public health association and to appoint Dr. Underwood as the association’s first president. The first meeting was planned and held in Jackson, Mississippi on December 9 and 10, 1937. Dr. Underwood reported to Governor Hugh White in his 1937 State Health Officer annual report that “all public health workers will attend annual meetings to hear outstanding speakers in sectional groups and in general assembly.”

In the 1940’s and 50’s, MPHA worked to ensure public health workers were included in the new Social Security pension system and wrote to President Roosevelt on the issue. MPHA was also very instrumental in pushing a bill through the Legislature to develop the Mississippi Public Retirement System.

In the 60s and 70s, MPHA supported efforts to set standards for nursing homes and developed policies to protect our water and environment, and Mississippi was at the forefront of states having seat belt standards before federal requirements. Workforce education through its annual meeting was maintained.

Much of the 80s and 90s centered on the Annual Conference as a means to promote professional development of the public health workforce and to improve public health service delivery and infrastructure.  During this period, MPHA’s membership and Board composition was predominantly MSDH staff and operated through an all-volunteer effort.

From 2006-12, the MPHA Board looked to expand the mission and activities of the Association and hired its first paid Executive Director. MPHA was one of 23 state associations to receive small infrastructure grants through APHA and Kellogg for three years. Work began to establish better member communications, re-establish advocacy efforts and develop public health partnerships. These efforts led to a funding relationship with the Bower Foundation that further expanded infrastructure including a complete rebranding with a new website, improved communications, development of strategic and business plans and implementation of a grassroots advocacy effort.  The combination of these improvements greatly increased MPHA’s visibility in the state and is having an impact in the areas of public health leadership, advocacy, and education.

From 2013-2019, MPHA made additional strides in membership growth with the promotion of organizational, student and retiree memberships. Additional programming for engaging these members was provided. MPHA emphasized enhancing member benefits, promoting National Public Health Week activities across the state, championing an annual public health walk named for former State Health Officer, Dr. Ed Thompson, developing a social media presence, and conducting robust advocacy efforts that assisted in maintaining strong immunization laws, increased public health funding, and retaining an independent State Board of Health among many others.

The Young Professionals, MPHA’s first Special Interest Group (SPIG) was formed in 2014 to provide additional emphasis on early career members and the Pine Belt Chapter was formed in 2018 encompassing the area around Hattiesburg. Leadership and partnerships with other public health organizations grew and efforts were made to diversify the MPHA Board to broaden our public health input and reach throughout the state.

These efforts and others gained recognition as MPHA was named the 2014 Affiliate of the Year by the American Public Health Association.

2020 became another milestone for MPHA when Charles “Buddy” Daughdrill retired as the founding Executive Director, who led the Association from 2007 till March of 2020. MPHA, through the diligent work of its Board, was able to recruit and hire Dr. Kaye Bender as its new part time Executive Director whose vast public health background and experience align MPHA for even greater heights moving forward.

Infrastructure Successes

  • Hired a new part-time Executive Director.
  • Outsourced the accounting function from volunteer treasurer.
  • Implemented contracts with Special Projects Coordinator, Membership Assistant, Communications Support and Others.
  • Created and updated a Strategic Action Plan.
  • Developed a written Procedures Guide for MPHA operations.
  • Increased and diversified the membership.
  • Implemented an online newsletter.

Advocacy Successes

  • Established a functioning Legislative and Policy Committee.
  • Developed annual Legislative Agenda and communicated to members.
  • Established a process to communicate with members through timely Legislative Updates and Action Alerts
  • Developed and produced a comprehensive Advocacy Toolkit to educate members
  • Partnered with major health organizations in the state to address specific policies
  • Connected on a regular basis with APHA to provide a Mississippi public health voice on national public health issues

Education Successes

  • Partnered with various health organizations to host public health events during National Public Health Week every year
  • Co-sponsored the Mississippi Health Summit from 2011 through 2013
  • Conducted an Annual Conference with over 400 attendees and 18 speakers/topics. Converted to virtual format in 2020 due to COVID19
  • Produced a number of education pieces to educate the public/policy makers on public health
  • Co-sponsored a “Biggest Loser” Campaign with MSDH on obesity prevention activities
  • Managed, in partnership with the MS Perinatal Quality Collaborative, a virtual conference in 2021
  • Managed ongoing webinars and seminars on selected public health topics with a variety of public health professionals