The first meeting of the Hidalgo-Starr Counties Community Health Assessment Steering Committee will be held on February 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce (1200 Ash St.). This reception, co-hosted by the city of McAllen and the School of Rural Public Health (SRPH), The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center, will include a presentation about the approach used to conduct the community health assessment begun in October 2002 and existing data from the region.
The community assessment is a comprehensive effort to determine health issues and priorities in a systematic fashion through academic-community participation. The survey response rate was about 40 percent, with 1,293 surveys returned. Approximately 30 discussion groups and key informant interviews have been held so far, and these results will also be presented. The steering committee will be asked to commit to a 90-day participation in the development of ideas to address priorities identified through the assessment. The steering committee consists of community leaders in business, health care, education and other local organizations. A second meeting, tentatively in April, will be held to present the final assessment results. This will ultimately lead to the formation of task forces that will work on identified priorities.
The Community Health Development Program (CHDP) at SRPH has recently conducted two similar assessments in Texas, in the Concho Valley and in the Brazos Valley. Both have resulted in significant changes in local health services and access to care. Previously, program staff have conducted more than 30 similar assessments across the United States. This community health status assessment is being conducted by the CHDP through the South Texas Center in McAllen, also part of the A&M System HSC.
“We are confident in this process and believe the results, when acted upon, will make important differences in your community,” said Dr. James Burdine, director of the CHDP. “The key is action. This is not just a study, but is an organized effort that produces high quality data and information. This effort increases the likelihood of influencing policy, programs, services, and resources available in the region. The School of Rural Public Health is committed to this community, and the School’s dean, Dr. Ciro Sumaya, will be at the meeting to discuss the health status assessment as well as future initiatives.”
The SRPH expects to begin three more projects out of the South Texas Center in the coming year: a promotoras training project, a binational utilization and indigent care study, and a binational environmental health symposium.
The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its five components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology and the School of Rural Public Health.

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