Health Initiative Grows at WCU

Hattiesburg, Miss., April 8, 2014 - A new walking club is one part of a health initiative recently launched by William Carey University (WCU) to benefit its employees and students. The university’s walking club, designed originally to get employees up and moving, was founded in September 2013 by WCU President Dr. Tommy King.

“Dr. King has an interest in promoting anything faculty and staff can do on campus that had a health benefit, and that’s how the club got going,” said Deanna Graves, the applications manager in the university’s admissions office and Dr. King’s appointee to lead the club.

Graves was picked because of her own drastic lifestyle change that included an 80-pound weight loss seven years ago through the popular diet program Weight Watchers.

“Seven years ago, we had Weight Watchers on campus, and I managed to not only lose that weight but keep it off,” she said.

Graves is enthusiastic about sharing her own experiences to help others at a time when Mississippi is ranked as the most obese state with an obesity rate of 35.4 percent in 2013, according to Gallup. In addition to leading the walking club, which meets at the university track several times each week, Graves has also spearheaded a push to inform employees of healthier food choices and lifestyle changes by sending a weekly newsletter that includes healthy recipes and general health tips.
Graves has been assisted in her efforts by eager colleagues wanting to improve their health and an administration that is supportive of bettering the lives of its employees.

“People have responded amazingly well and we’ve been able to get many activities going with many things planned for the future,” she said.

Among the program’s perks is the “Walking with Jesus” soundtrack that has been provided by the university on university-issued MP3 players or for personal download at The soundtrack, designed to be played while exercising, includes devotions, inspiring music, oral histories of Carey and its predecessor Mississippi Woman’s College, and health care information.

Another perk of the program is a drawing for a weekend trip every six months for participants in the club who have met their 30-percent weight loss goal or have kept up with their own exercise. Participants aren’t restricted to just participation in the university’s walking club but can also submit information from other programs they may use, said Graves.
Future plans for the university’s health initiative include getting more students involved in the walking club and health information efforts. During the university’s Homecoming festivities on April 25-26, Graves and her fellow club members will push the walking club heavily to students, especially residential students.

“We’re really excited about getting more involved with students and having student organizations involved,” she said.

Other plans include the club adding more walking times and continuing to push health care prevention efforts. Graves said the ultimate goal of the club is not only healthier people, but eventually lower costs for medical care, including health insurance.
According to the Mississippi Center for Obesity Research, obesity predisposes people to a whole host of chronic diseases and forces the obese to generate 40 percent more in medical costs each year.
The Center’s research also indicates that obese adults will miss work more often than others, impacting productivity.

“With health care costs rising and insurance costs fluctuating, if we don’t take it upon ourselves to do something healthy, it will only cost us more in the end,” said Graves.
For more information on the health initiative, contact Graves at 601-318-6429 or by email at

William Carey University faculty, staff and students have started a walking club to promote healthy lifestyles. Pictured are club members as they prepare to exercise on the university’s track.