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The city of Brownsville, Texas which sits on the Texas-Mexico border was desperately in need of some changes for better health. Fortunately, a diverse group of leaders banded together to implement a variety of initiatives to reach locals with improved access to healthy foods, culturally relevant opportunities for physical activity and programs to aid those with limited access to health care.
In an article from Health Affairs blog, Salud Hero and associate professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health, Belinda Reininger recounts how some of Brownville’s leaders got started with bringing about a culture of health to its residents.
According to the article, in Brownsville, 48% of children live in poverty, 80% are obese or overweight, 30% of the population has diabetes, and nearly 67% do not have health insurance. Of those who have diabetes, half of them don’t even know about it.
The city now has a community advisory board (CAB) comprised of over 200 members who oversee the implementation of programs and policies which enable residents to engage in healthy activities.
“At first, the CAB examined health by itself, but it now works to build a vibrant community by addressing the relationships between health, poverty, education, and the economy,” Reininger said. “We talked to community groups and city leaders about what they thought were the city’s most pressing needs. We assessed our problems and found that the rising prevalence of diabetes and obesity were paramount.”
Some examples of successful initiatives include:
- Brownsville in Motion
- Completion of The Belden Trail (see Salud Hero Story: Community Transforms Old Train Tracks in West Brownsville, Texas, into a Public-Access Hike & Bike Trail)
- The Brownsville Farmers’ Market (see Salud Hero Story: The Brownsville Farmers’ Market Launches a Culture of Health)
- The Tu Salud ¡Si Cuenta! (Your Health Matters!), Obesity Prevention Campaign
- An evidence-based chronic care program for people with uncontrolled diabetes
Key to the success of these projects was involving the community in the process early on. Reininger says this “creates a sense of ownership and pride.”
In the future, Brownsville plans to continue creating a culture of health by expanding bike routes, farmers’ markets and community garden programs in a collaborative manner.
“Ultimately, we envision a Brownsville known for its culture of health, not its health challenges,” Reininger said.
Read the full article here.