The South is known for its tasty, rich foods like fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and peach cobbler. Unfortunately, one Southern state, Mississippi, is also known for having some of the nation’s highest rates of obesity and chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes—health threats that disproportionately affect African Americans.

For more than 20 years, Mississippi nurse Ella Garner Jackson, RN, CHN, has been working to change these grim statistics by providing health promotion and disease prevention programs to African American church congregations on a volunteer basis. In 2005 she turned her passion into a non-profit organization, the Abundant Living Community Organization (ALCO), which provides health and wellness education, screenings, referrals and other resources through a network of more than two dozen congregational health nurses (CHNs) throughout the state. Jackson is ALCO’s executive director.

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