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Communities Benefit from Health Assessments

Clipboard with penLearn how assessment results have mobilized underserved communities in east-central Texas to improve health services and mental health resources.

Communities Engage in Regional Health Assessments

In 2013, researchers from the Texas A&M Health Science Center Prevention Research Center (PRC) completed their fourth regional health assessment in east-central Texas to measure local population health and identify the concerns, needs, priorities, and opportunities of the local communities.

Map of the 9-county area of the 2013 Health Assessment and its location within Texas.

Over the years, these assessments have highlighted many local issues that affect community health, including the following:

  • Limited and inadequate mental health resources and services.
  • Disparities in access to health resources and services—rural, low-income, and minority populations are the most affected.
  • Limited public transportation—in every community, the public transportation system was described as unreliable, unaffordable, and inadequate.

At the start of the assessments in 2002, most of these communities had never had any substantial form of local-level health data available. Now, local leaders from many organizations, including health departments and hospitals, have been using results to collaborate, allocate resources, and take action to improve community health. Learn more about the assessment reports.

Videoconference

Videoconferencing technology makes it possible for those in need to receive counseling.

Communities Make Strides to Increase Mental Health Resources

The assessment findings prompted the start of Telehealth, a program that has improved the professional mental health resources available to underserved rural residents. About 1 out of 5 respondents indicated that they had been diagnosed with depression, which is about four times the national depression rate. In many cases, there have been no resources available to these residents; in other cases, resources have been an hour-long drive away.

Since 2006, Telehealth collaborators have administered free 45-minute long mental health sessions to those in need from a distance using high-quality videoconferencing technology. In a study published in 2011, researchers found four weekly Telehealth counseling sessions significantly decreased depressive symptoms and increased quality of life among clients diagnosed with depression. Learn more on the Telehealth Counseling Clinic Website.

Communities Improve Access to Health Services

Minivans

Two Transportation Program vehicles.

The first health assessment prompted communities to gather their resources and form the Brazos Valley Health Partnership, which led to the development of five health resource centers throughout the region. The services offered at each center are tailored to each community’s specific needs and available resources, and include

  • Low cost medical, dental, and specialty care for the uninsured.
  • Educational and vocational assistance.
  • Sexual assault resources.
  • Senior meals programs.

Learn more on the Brazos Valley Health Partnership Website.

Communities Partner with the Prevention Research Centers Program

Problem: Nearly a third of all rural residents travel more than 20 miles to obtain medical care—some up to 100 miles. Others reported the distance to purchase healthy foods is almost 30 miles.

Solution: Through funding from the Healthy Communities Access Program, and collaboration with the Texas A&M Health Science Center PRC and community volunteers, each center has established guidelines, recruited and trained drivers, and purchased and maintained vehicles.

Outcome: Since the start of the program in 2003, there have been more than 44,000 rides provided to enhance the health of local residents.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center Prevention Research Center (PRC) was funded in 2004 to establish a research, education, and experience base for improving population health status through community health development approaches. The PRC Program is a network of academic, community, and public health partners that conducts applied public health research to promote health and prevent disease. Congress authorized the program in 1984, and the first 3 centers were funded 2 years later. Today, 37 centers are located in 27 states, and they reach nearly 30 million people in 103 partner communities. PRCs work with vulnerable communities where the mean per capita income is one-third lower than the US average. Find more information about the PRCs, their achievements, and their research in progress on the PRC Program Website.

References

  1. Center for Community Health Development. Regional Health Partnership 17 Health Assessment Executive Report. College Station, TX: School of Rural Public Health; 2013.
  2. McCord CE, Elliott TR, Wendel ML, Brossart DF, Cano M, Gonzalez G, Burdine JN. Community capacity and teleconference counseling in rural Texas. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. 2011;42:521-527.
  3. Pratt LA, Brody DJ. Depression in the United States household population, 2005–2006. NCHS Data Brief. 2008;7:1-8.
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