The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has been awarded a “Programs to Reduce Obesity in High-Obesity Areas” grant to support national efforts by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reduce chronic diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities, and control health care spending. Working with the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, Texas A&M AgriLife received $783,000 for the first year of a three-year grant focused on improving access to healthy foods, as well as safe and convenient locations for physical activity within targeted communities in Hidalgo County.
[Photo: Dr. Marcia Ory]
According to Health and Human Services, $4.6 million in new grants is being awarded to six land-grant universities in states with counties having a greater than 40 percent prevalence of adult obesity.
The initiative is important because data shows chronic diseases in the U.S. such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes are the leading causes of death, disability and health care costs. They account for seven of 10 deaths among Americans each year and more than 80 percent of the $2.7 trillion the nation spends annually on medical care.
“This grant will be administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 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,” said Dr. Carol Rice, AgriLife Extension health specialist and program leader and co-principal investigator for the program, located in College Station. “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 a partnership between AgriLife Extension and the Texas A&M Health Science Center, combining the skills and expertise of both organizations to help solve a problem,” said Dr. Marcia Ory, regents and distinguished professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health in College Station and co-principal investigator.
“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,” Dr. Ory said. “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.”