Summit aims to improve community health

April 23, 2011 at 9 p.m.
Updated April 22, 2011 at 11:23 p.m.

Earlier this month, Pecan Valley Area Health Education Center invited business and community leaders to come together to brainstorm ideas to help make Victoria, and its surrounding counties, a healthier place to live and work.

Preliminary interviews with community, industry, business and government leaders included VISD, DeTar Health Care System, the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, UHV Small Business Development, the City of Victoria and Driscoll Children's Health Plan, among others. These interviews helped the Pecan Valley AHEC staff identify some of the biggest challenges facing the health of our community and pinpoint opportunities to address these challenges.

These challenges include such concerns as the economy and area-wide budget cuts throughout businesses and local industry. The recruitment and retention of skilled healthcare workers was also a concern, along with the hazards of existing and emerging technology, such as cell phone texting. Other general health and safety issues like the prevalence of diabetes and obesity, the need for nutrition education and the prevention of teen pregnancy were also identified.

Some of the suggestions for improvements to the quality of health in our region included creating employee wellness programs for a healthier workforce and instituting geriatric programs to serve our aging population. Interviewees also suggested workshops for coaches and school personnel to help students avoid injuries and a community pride campaign to gear up for the emerging industries that are likely to recruit the younger generation.

After identifying these challenges and opportunities, summit participants gathered at the Leo J. Welder Performing Arts Center to discuss ideas for harnessing community resources to address these issues and specifically, how Pecan Valley AHEC can help facilitate partnerships that will help overcome hurdles. Summit participants included representatives from DeTar Health Care System, Driscoll Children's Health Care Plan, Citizens Medical Center, Alcoa, Victoria College and AgriLife and the staff of Pecan Valley AHEC.

During brainstorming sessions, summit participants agreed on a number of ways to collaborate and begin building the kinds of programs, workshops and services that will address the needs that were identified through community interviews.

Some of these collaborations may include creating a speaker's bureau to give presentations to civic organizations, holding town hall meetings, uniting common goals among community stakeholders and determining community priorities.

"I think there was a great amount of energy generated from the participants," said Deanna Alvarez, program manager for Pecan Valley AHEC. "At the end of the day, I think our summit was quite successful, and I look forward to future outcomes from this meeting."

Pecan Valley AHEC will now move forward to compile their findings, document the identified goals from the summit and prepare a report that will serve as the first steps to enacting a concerted community effort toward improving our health.

"The point of this summit is to help us double our strategic partnerships within 12 to 18 months," said Paula Crawford, program coordinator for Pecan Valley AHEC. "Based on the level of participation in this summit, I think we'll be able to meet that goal."



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