Working collaboratively with local Agents and community partners, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Prairie View Extension with support from the Texas Transportation Institute and the Texas Department of Transportation will establish a “Working on Wellness Environments” (WOWE) program in the following Texas counties: Hudspeth, Maverick, Starr, and Webb. Through education, capacity building, and policy implementation, local leaders and organizations will foster sustainable systems to guide supportive environment improvements, reducing the burden of obesity on these counties by improving access to healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables and routine physical activity for County residents.
Hudspeth, Maverick, Starr, and Webb counties are predominantly Hispanic, and many communities within them are often described as underserved with respect to access to resources that can promote health and reduce disease risk. In addition to having an obesity rate over 40%, county residents also endure additional health disparities related to obesity such as limited access to infrastructure, food desserts, physical inactivity, poverty, lack of social interactions and medical care, and low levels of educational attainment.
Texas’ rapidly growing population and geographic spread presents additional obstacles to addressing these health issues. The total population of these counties is 394,601 and they are growing rapidly; located on the south and southwest borders of Texas; and entail both rural and urban settings. The geographical location and sizes of these counties pose a challenge at the local and state level with respect to community education, outreach, and capital to support environmental and policy changes. The opportunity to garner additional support from a program such as this HOP CDC- 1809 helps leverage existing resources at the state and local level.
AgriLife Extension has a strong and respected presence in these counties. While it is evident that our current educational, gardening, and walking programs are successful among many partners, additional outreach and technical assistance efforts are needed for crucial interventions intertwined into everyday life and health decisions. There is a clear need and readiness to expand beyond local initial programs and events to larger, higher impact programs and interventions.
Strategies and activities for this proposed program will combine elements of the Community Change Model. Key elements will include coalition support, outreach, workshops, assessments, technical assistance, mini-grants, and evaluation. Components of this model have been successful in related Extension programs.
Environmental and or policy interventions will be identified by local leaders and groups after they conduct assessments and devise action plans with technical assistance from subject matter experts representing four Texas state agencies and their key partners.
This Socioecological Model (SEM) approach has been shown to successfully support policy, systems, and environmental changes that address obesity issues. By educating and empowering local leaders and groups to expand their networks and foster change, they can increase access to and purchasing of healthier foods as well as improve access to and use of safe and accessible places for physical activity. In turn, related outcomes will address some of the burdens impacting obesity rates and health disparities.