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Summit seeks ways to improve health in the Crossroads

By ALLISON MILES
May 11, 2011 at 12:11 a.m.

Robbyn Michalka

Want to know more?To learn more about the Making Our Communities Healthier Summit, or to get involved, contact Robbyn Michalka, director of the Pecan Valley Area Health Education Center at 361-485-6811.

A healthy community is a better place to live, Robbyn Michalka said. And, if that's the case, one organization is working to better Victoria.

The East Texas Area Health Education Center recently hosted a "Making Our Communities Healthier Summit," an event that's part of an overall goal to make Victoria and the surrounding areas healthier.

Michalka, director of the Pecan Valley Area Health Education Center, discussed the summit with about 85 people at the Victoria Chamber of Commerce's monthly luncheon.

The undertaking got its start with 19 interviews with people from healthcare, business, government and non-profit backgrounds, she said. Each person was asked about challenges the community faces and opportunities for improvement.

Among the challenges listed were parent and community apathy, economy and budget cuts and basic health and nutrition.

Representatives from East Texas AHEC then took those results to the April 5 summit at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts, where the 21 participants reviewed the research and discussed ways to make improvements.

The five main ideas were to improve communication, build trust and confidence, assess the community's needs, form partnerships and identify and utilize community resources.

Although broad, the findings were a good starting point, Michalka said, explaining similar summits will take place at all of the East Texas Area Health Education Center's nine centers. Another Victoria summit is in the works, too.

"We're all doing things, but we need to work together," Michalka said.

Vicki Wagner attended the luncheon and said she enjoyed Michalka's presentation. It's important for people to educate members of the public in ways to keep both themselves and their families healthy, said Wagner, who works at Crossroads MRI.

"They're in charge of their own healthcare," she said. "A lot of people don't realize that."

Also during the meeting, Victoria Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Randy Vivian announced Victoria received honorable mention from the Heart and Stroke Healthy City Recognition Program. It's the highest recognition the city has received from the program since its start.

The program recognizes cities that make strides in increasing physical activity and improving eating habits, reducing tobacco use and decreasing response time to heart attacks and strokes, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services website.

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