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A Woman’s World
School of Nursing creates health haven for women and girls
by Mike Lawrence

Girls in a housing project playing soccer … women walking the mall for exercise … babies in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program drinking juice from sippy cups. What do they have in common? They’re all pursuing healthier lifestyles with the assistance of the School of Nursing’s newly created Center for Community-Based Health Promotion in Women and Children.

The name says it all: The center’s focus is to promote healthy activities for women and children while providing service to the community. "This particular effort is not about illness and medicine, it’s about health," said the center’s director, Patricia Kelly, Ph.D., assistant professor of family nursing care. "We don’t see ourselves as an ivory tower institution on the hill coming down to do things for the community. We are seeking to empower people to work together for healthy lives and to overcome real challenges that are the result of poverty, lack of education and minimal community resources."

Faculty launched the center with encouragement from nursing dean Janet Allan, Ph.D., an internationally recognized scholar in weight management practices of women. "This center is a model for the integration of health promotion research, education and clinical service to the community," Dr. Allan said. "Several of the center projects will address major health disparities among vulnerable populations of women and children."

The center is built on the faculty’s existing strengths in women’s issues, child health and community service. The 12 doctoral-level founding faculty lend their nursing, medical and public health skills to clinical community projects such as teaching adolescents at the Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center about sexual risk behavior, providing social support to women at risk of pre-term labor, and assisting women in making choices about cancer screening.

The center received major encouragement when the Anita Thigpen Perry Endowment was created to help support its activities. The endowment honors the Texas First Lady, who earned her Master of Science in Nursing degree from the School of Nursing in 1977 and is the school’s 2001 Distinguished Alumna.

Students, faculty and community nursing professionals will have the opportunity to contribute to center activities and involve themselves in community issues. The center seeks collaborators from all schools of the Health Science Center and from the community who are interested in health promotion research with women and children in community settings.

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