A critical shortage of trained public health professionals has been well documented in recent years and continues in most states, including Texas. A service-learning program based at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, EpiAssist, is helping to address these shortages by providing much needed services statewide to health departments and agencies. Group members have logged over 3,000 volunteer hours since January 2015.
The most recent activity by EpiAssist occurred this past December 2-3 in Bryan and College Station, Texas, as graduate students guided by Dr. Jennifer Horney, associate professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health and founder of the organization, completed a door-to-door survey to assess the prevalence of risk factors for Neglected Tropical Diseases. Regional public health officials from Temple participated as well.
The Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response, or the CASPER method of population-based community surveys, was used to assess the prevalence of risk factors for Chagas, leishmaniasis, dengue, ascariasis, hookworm, trichuriasis, taeniasis/cysticercosis, echinococcosis, paragonimiasis and fascioliasis. The survey included questions on travel, housing quality, and food handling.
The high quality data generated by this CASPER will be immediately useful to local, regional and state health departments in guiding public health priorities to areas with high concentrations of risk factors.
The Texas A&M EpiAssist students were recently highlighted in a Galveston County Health District video following a CASPER conducted in the area.