top of page

Fixing the Messenger, not the Message:The University of Memphis, Church Health and Tigers Athletics

Authors: Nikkino Wesson, Fedoria Rugless, Daniel Greenwood

University of Memphis + Church Health


In America we chase the dream that anything is possible, e dream that anything is possible, that we can achieve anything we set our minds to, that success is there for those that work hard, if we just have the bravery to reach out and take it... but it isn’t that simple, is it? In under-serviced communities, without guidance, education, support, and a dash of intervention our chance to reach the best version of ourselves gradually decreases.

In the city of Memphis, 26.8% of the population between the ages of 25-34 years old live below the poverty line. The poverty line in Memphis has a strong relationship to the obesity epidemic; in our city about 40% of the population is classified as obese, which is even higher than the state of Tennessee’s average of 33%, which is the 6th highest in the nation, and perhaps most importantly this value is rising.

The challenges for our city are real. As barriers to physical exercise exist, such as facilities access, safety, financial cost and time cost, we must find a way to encourage and educate about the need to maintain personal health. In Memphis we want to share a symbol of health, fitness and community through Tigers Athletics, use our coaches as community leaders and our athletes as ambassadors to encourage physical activity.

Who wants to listen to a scientist tell them they should eat better, who wants to listen to a teacher tell them they need to behave better, who wants to be told they need to act a certain way to reduce future health concerns?… the answer is no-one. That is why we want to use the cut through of the Mighty Memphis Tigers to be the mouthpiece, presenting a voice which ascends financial, racial, societal boundaries which all Memphians are ready to listen to.

Our work here in Memphis relies on the education and encouragement of our community to provide them opportunities to thrive in the future. While the messages of public health are generally understood, the rising health concerns suggest that they are not acted upon, perhaps because we have other more sensitive challenges, or perhaps because the barriers outweigh our enthusiasm. It is time that as health professionals we step away from the microphones and public health announcements and reflect on what matters. That we need a better mouthpiece. As was once said by Red Auerbach, the famous Boston Celtics basketball coach ‘It's not what you say as much as what they absorb.’ And no one absorbs better than from people that inspire them.


bottom of page