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CDC awards $2.9 million to help reduce health disparities among Hispanics

UTHealth will be responsible for program evaluation in six states

HOUSTON – (Oct. 19, 2012) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded Su Comunidad Consortium, a Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program, a $2.9 million intervention grant to address health disparities among Hispanics and Latinos in six states. 

They will examine health issues including nutrition, physical activity, mental health and chronic conditions in Texas, Oregon, Idaho, New Mexico, Arizona and Washington. The consortium includes The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), Hidalgo Medical Services, Northwest Regional Primary Care Association and The University of Arizona College of Public Health.

“Our school is delighted to be a consortium partner for this important initiative that will highlight our collaborative efforts for utilizing the community health worker model to help Hispanic and Latino communities,” said Hector Balcazar, Ph.D., regional dean of The University of Texas School of Public Health El Paso Regional Campus, part of UTHealth. “Innovative community plans will be developed in selected communities within these six states with the emphasis on relevant policy, systems and environmental strategies supported by community health workers.”

The cooperative agreement is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) efforts to address health disparities in racial and ethnic groups across the country. It will include interventions that address proper nutrition, physical activity and healthy weight

The UT School of Public Health El Paso Regional Campus will conduct program evaluation and provide health promotion educational tools developed for community health workers or promotoras de salud to support their work in participating communities. Educational tools include the fotonovela, “How to Control Your Hypertension” that was developed by Balcazar and colleagues. In the picture book, a family learns how to control high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease.

Community health workers are common across Hispanic communities in the United States and generally live in the communities they serve, have strong personal and cultural ties to the community and are Spanish-English bilingual. They provide a broad range of public health services including health education, assistance accessing health and social support services, and health system navigation. Community health workers are an important part to this initiative because they will help disseminate health messages such as chronic condition and disease prevention, according to Balcazar.

Chronic disease contributes to roughly three quarters of the $2.5 trillion spent annually on health care in the United States, according to the CDC.

Preventable risk factors such as tobacco use, poor nutrition, and lack of physical activity are more common in minority and low-income communities, according to Charlie Alfero, REACH principal investigator and executive director of the Hidalgo Medical Services Center for Health Innovation. . These risk factors often result in the development of chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke, diabetes, cancer and asthma.

“The community health worker model is a key feature to our efforts,” said Balcazar. “The UT School of Public Health will provide the consortium and the communities served by the REACH: Su Comunidad project with more than 20 years of experience and commitment working with promotoras de salud in Hispanic and Latino communities.”

The consortium will also award funds to 15 sub-recipient communities and provide intensive training and technical assistance. Recipient communities will receive funding to conduct their own interventions and implement community action plans to promote nutrition, physical activity and healthy weight. Communities will also utilize the community health worker model. Funds will reach local community-based organizations and engage them in designing programs that fit their culture.

Funding will also complement the efforts of HHS’ Million Hearts™ initiative, a national program to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2016.

Jade Waddy
Media Contact: 713-500-3030