Program for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities receives federal contract to improve health, reduce disparities in South Texas colonias

April 5, 2013
Project team members in front of the Progreso Family Community Center

Project team members in front of the Progreso Family Community Center (left to right): Elva Beltran (promotora), Daisy Garces (Outreach Director at Progreso Family Community Center), Maria Davila (promotora supervisor), Dr. Joseph Sharkey (Project Director), Esther Valdez (promotora) and Melissa Gómez (Project Coordinator). Absent from the picture is Julie St. John (Community Engagement Coordinator).

The Program for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities at the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) School of Rural Public Health recently was awarded a Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) contract of $148,000 annually for five years.

Funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) REACH initiative under a sub-award from Hidalgo Medical Services Center for Health Innovation, the Program for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities, under its Construyendo Comunidades Fronterizas Más Sanas (Building Healthier Border Communities) Initiative, is working to promote healthy eating, active living and healthy weight to help improve health and reduce health disparities in Progreso-area colonias in Hidalgo County.

REACH is a CDC program focusing on comprehensive strategies to improve well-being and lessen and eliminate chronic disease disparities among African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Asian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders.

Joining other awardees in Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, the Program for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities will address health inequities impacting Hispanic/Latino populations through its Mejorando la Salud Comunitaria en Progreso – Improving Community Health in Progreso (ICHP) – by using a promotora-led community-based approach to identify, develop and disseminate effective strategies for improving community health through nutrition and physical activity. This program emphasizes the importance of developing and maintaining strong partnerships to guide and support the work.

As a community-based initiative, this project is led by Joseph Sharkey, Ph.D., M.P.H., RD, professor at TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health and founding director of the Program for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities, and ICHP leadership team and community partnerships. The community leadership team, known as the Progreso Community Health Advisory Council (P-CHAC), consists of Progreso area promotoras, residents, business owners and organizations (Progreso Family Community Center is the lead community organization.). The P-CHAC will facilitate engagement of the greater Progreso community and promote the growth of community-based partnerships that can identify community health concerns and facilitate community-based solutions to improving the long-term health of community residents.

This project has been made possible by the REACH Su Comunidad Consortium consisting of Hidalgo Medical Services Center for Health Innovation, Northwest Regional Primary Care Association, Center of Excellence in Women’s Health at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health El Paso Regional Campus.

The consortium will provide intensive training and technical assistance to 10 sub-recipients across five states.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell

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