(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — The Center for Community Health Development at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health recently was chosen by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services to conduct an evaluation toward understanding how different self-management programs can benefit the health and well-being of older adults in Texas.

The HSC-SRPH selection follows the awarding of $13 million by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to 16 states for projects to improve the health of older Americans. The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services was among the recipients.

Marcia Ory, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor in the HSC-SRPH, will lead the program evaluation for the three selected sites in Texas – Brazos Valley, Harris County and Bexar County. Ronnie Gipson, director of the Brazos Valley Area Agency on Aging (BVAAA), will be responsible for overall grant management and leadership of the Brazos Valley effort.

The Texas project will teach older Americans self-management of chronic diseases and reduce their risk of disease and disability. In the Brazos Valley, the BVAAA will implement the Stanford Chronic Disease Self Management Program, along with “A Matter of Balance,” a program designed to help prevent falls.

The BVAAA plans to help 290 seniors better manage and take control of their chronic illnesses over the three-year project time period. The Retired Senior Volunteer Program, already operating at the BVAAA, will help recruit volunteers to serve as teachers of the two programs, and the HSC-SRPH CCHD will train these volunteer teachers. The HSC-SRPH CCHD expects to add 48 trainers to the seven-county area, helping make the program sustainable over time.

“We are thrilled that the Texas Healthy Lifestyles Program was selected as one of the pioneer states for this program,” Dr. Ory said. “We are eager to share our learning about the impact of evidence-based programs in diverse community settings and populations.”

Fifteen senior service centers and other community organizations throughout the Brazos Valley will serve as venues for the classes. Rural areas typically have less access to current educational programs, health care services and transportation, particularly among older residents. By taking the programs out into the community through various services already in place, the project will target those most in need.

“We want classes in the rural, isolated areas so people don’t have to travel so far to get to them,” Mr. Gipson said. “We want them available and easily accessible to as many seniors as possible.”

The project is seeking locations throughout the Brazos Valley to serve as host sites. Organizations may volunteer their location/space by calling the BVAAA at (979) 595- 2800.

“Behavioral self-management is one of the more promising tools for assisting individuals with chronic disease to manage their conditions and to reduce the risk of subsequent health problems,” said Dr. Kenneth McLeroy, Ph.D., associate dean for Academic Affairs for the HSC-SRPH. “I am particularly pleased by the critical leadership provided by Dr. Marcia Ory in the development of this project, and we are excited to be part of this national, state and local effort to disseminate and evaluate the self-management program.”

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its six 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, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Rural Public Health.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell