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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M Chancellor partners with state senator on health initiative

Following the announcement of a new teaching facility in McAllen, Texas A&M’s presence in South Texas will continue to grow with a new health initiative.

In June of 2014, A&M Chancellor John Sharp and state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa announced a pilot program that would help reduce preventable diseases and encourage healthier living across Texas. Last month, Sharp and Hinojosa announced a new branch of the program called “Healthy South Texas” that will be implemented in 27 counties.

One of the main goals of the new branch of the initiative is to reduce preventable diseases in South Texas by 25 percent by 2025. To achieve this, the initiative is partnering with the Texas A&M System to help educate communities on growing good food and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Aside from the Texas A&M Health Science Center and Agrilife Extension Service in College Station, other A&M campuses in Kingsville, Corpus Christi and McAllen are helping out.

With an initial investment of $10 million by the 84th Texas Legislature, the program expects to help Texans at a fraction of what they would be spending on late stage medical treatments in hospitals.

“We [combine] all of the health-related resources that A&M has to work hand-in-hand with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, so we can maximize those resources to provide a focus on those diseases and prevent them,” Hinojosa said. “This is the first time that we have had the resources and a University system that has a medical school, a dental school, a nursing school, a pharmacy school, working with the Agrilife Extension Service that is located in all of the counties in Texas.”

The initiative hopes that changing environments will lead to better health and decreased health care costs in the future. Guidance on the needs and opportunities for the counties each A&M campus is located in will be given, said associate director of agrilife extension service Susan Ballabina. This will include a physical activity program in 2016.

“Longer term goals are to help people change behaviors, which will result in better health and decreased health care costs,” Ballabina said. 

Director of Health Initiatives at the A&M System Scott Lillibridge said Healthy South Texas will shift the focus of health prevention services directly to the community.

“One such example can be seen at the Texas A&M Coastal Bend Health Education Center in Corpus Christi, where we are dramatically improving the health of community members living with diabetes, and empowering them to care for themselves,” Lillibridge said.

 While the initiative is still in the pilot stage, there are high hopes that this program will decrease conditions like diabetes, obesity and asthma significantly, and in turn reduce healthcare costs. Hinojosa said it can be used as a model for the rest of the state. 

“By using the system that’s already in place, combine it with the Health Center from A&M, it [Healthy South Texas] will form the structure for us to reach out to new communities in South Texas,” Hinojosa said. 

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