Regional Campus in Laredo to focus on obesity, diabetes
Contact: Rosanne Fohn, 210-567-3079
LAREDO (June 28, 2012) — Nearly half of adults in the Texas border region are obese and 30 percent have diabetes. With many teens already overweight or obese, the trend continues to go up.
That is why the Regional Campus of the UT Health Science Center San Antonio has a new focus on addressing these major health issues through research, education and community engagement.
UT System initiative
The UT Health Science Center San Antonio and its Regional Campus are participating in a new University of Texas System initiative — the South Texas Border Community Obesity and Diabetes Program.
This multi-institutional program is led by Joe McCormick, M.D., vice president for South Texas Programs at the Health Science Center and regional dean of the UT Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health in Brownsville.
Additional campuses participating in the initiative are the UT Health Science Center’s Regional Academic Health Center campuses in Edinburg and Harlingen, UT Brownsville, UT Pan American and Texas A&M International University.
Gladys Keene, M.D., M.P.H., regional dean of the Regional Campus, represents Laredo on the project’s steering committee. “Obesity is a major health concern because it can lead to diabetes and so many other health issues — heart and liver disease, kidney failure, blindness, cancer and depression. We are working together to find ways to reverse this trend and prevent it from happening in the future,” she said.
Chronic conditions cause suffering
In his outline of the project, Dr. McCormick noted: “Sixty-five percent of the border region population is uninsured and there is limited access to prevention and health care for chronic conditions. Thus, diabetes results in great suffering: $227 million per year in lost wages and more than $500 million for treatment in the South Texas border region.”
Dr. Keene said, “We already know about many of the health issues and impediments to receiving care here in Laredo because of the Community Health and Workforce Needs Assessment that we completed earlier this year. These data will be useful for the obesity and diabetes project.”
Plans are under way to establish a community advisory board and clinical research unit, with a clinical research nurse and two health educator assistants, at the Regional Campus by the end of the year.
Later, faculty and staff will be recruited to conduct community-based research, and they will mentor graduate students through distance learning. All the campuses will be linked through technology to facilitate communication and to transfer data.
“The last step will be to give high school and college students the opportunity to be involved in science education and research by working with faculty members through our pipeline program,” Dr. Keene said. “We are looking forward to bringing research, educational opportunities and improved health to our region.”
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $231 million in fiscal year 2011. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced more than 28,000 graduates. The $736 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.
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