University of Houston-Victoria faculty members are seeking participants for a free public health program that focuses on combating chronic kidney disease that will now be held virtually.

The Victoria Alliance Against Chronic Kidney Disease program has become an online program because of concerns about COVID-19. The program started in March but had to be put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic. It is funded by a grant through Healthy Kids, Healthy Families – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas’ signature community investments program.

“Even though the pandemic has caused us to put a pause on public events and meetings, we are still able to hold meetings virtually,” said Michael Wiblishauser, a UHV assistant professor of health studies who is leading the alliance. “There are people in our community who are vulnerable to kidney disease, and it is more important than ever for us to take care of our health. The program going virtual will help participants to learn more about healthy habits from the comfort of their home.”

The purpose of this program is to prevent chronic kidney disease by reducing the major risk factors, such as high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. Kidney disease is the ninth-leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program will be provided online through emails and virtual presentations. This is the second year UHV has received funding for this program.

During the virtual meetings, participants will hear health professionals such as a nutritionist, a nurse practitioner and a fitness trainer to help them develop healthier habits. Participants also will be given personalized nutrition and physical activity plans; healthy cooking lessons; and educational materials and tools, including Fit Bits and a Portionmate set for new participants. There also will be monthly drawings for a free yearlong YMCA gym membership and H-E-B gift cards. Emails will be sent weekly to registered participants and will include information and links for activities and presentations related to the study.

The program is free and open to anyone 18 or older who is interested in learning more about how to improve their health. While participants who joined earlier this year will still be able to be in the program, there is room for about 200 participants from the Victoria County and Calhoun County areas, Wiblishauser said.

“This is a great opportunity for our community members to learn more about how to prevent kidney disease and improve their health,” said Courtney Middleton-Sides, UHV senior director for corporate and foundation relations. “We are grateful for the opportunity to modify this grant to become a virtual program to help our communities.”

For more information or to join the program, contact Wiblishauser at 361-570-4178 or wiblishauserm@uhv.edu.

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