The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service recently awarded a grant to support the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ efforts to reduce obesity and chronic diseases, increase healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities and control healthcare spending.
They awarded a “Programs to Reduce Obesity in High-Obesity Areas” grant that awards $783,000 to spend over the first of three years through partnering with the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health. The grant will be focused on improving access to healthy foods and to safe and convenient locations to practice physical activities in some targeted communities in Hidalgo Country.
$4.6 million in new grants is being awarded to universities located in states with counties with a greater than 40 percent prevalence of adult obesity.
Participants believe that this initiative is important, since data shows that chronic diseases in the United States, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are the leading causes of death, disability, and costs in health: 7 in every 10 Americans die because of these diseases each year, and more than 80 percent of the almost $3 trillion spent annually on medical care are a result of those same diseases.
Dr. Carol Rice, AgriLife Extension health specialist, program leader, and co-principal investigator for the program said in a press release: “This grant will be administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and much of the initial funding will be used to establish a Working on Wellness/Trabajando en el Bienestar community-based program to address obesity in Hidalgo County (…) Hidalgo County was selected for the project because CDC has determined that more than 40 percent of the county’s 800,000 residents are obese.”
The program is the result of a partnership between AgriLife Extension and the Texas A&M Health Science Center. It combines the skills and expertise of both entities to solve this problem.
Dr. Marcia Ory, regents and professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health in College Station and co-principal investigator, said: “Both entities have ‘boots on the ground’ in Hidalgo County, where we have a campus in South Texas and AgriLife Extension county agents are available to collaborate on the program (…) Our Center for Community Health Development’s National Community Health Worker Training Center enables us to reach the most underserved communities using approaches that are culturally appropriate.”
Efforts in Hidalgo County will include partnerships with communities, schools, local government, and agencies so that the conditions for a healthier life can be encouraged in the community. Families will be taught how to grow their own food and how to develop sports and physical activities habits.
“We’ll work with communities to identify parks that we can help them reclaim through community policing and neighborhood efforts, as well as possibly adding lights, benches and trees to produce a more comfortable and fun environment in which residents can be physically active,” Ory explained.
This is a commitment to lower obesity rates, reduce chronic diseases and to take care of Hidalgo’s future generations.