Advocating for Health Communities
IT’S A FACT:
- In 2011-2012, the prevalence for obesity among children and adolescents was higher among Hispanics (22.4%) and non- Hispanic blacks (20.2%) than among non-Hispanic whites (14.1%).
- Fewer than 1 in every 4 adolescents meets the recommended guidelines for physical activity – 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.
Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization
The journey of a health education specialist may start in a classroom, but Dr. Idethia Harvey believes that the competency acquired in the classroom must continue to develop in order to work effectively with others in diverse and underserved communities. Harvey is an associate professor in health education where her experience in health promotion and disease prevention within minority communities has allowed her to teach her students about the importance of health education.
Harvey’s research focuses on the way in which social conditions and people’s behaviors explain the role of self-management of obesity-related chronic conditions. She believes that it is her duty to incorporate her research interest within the classroom.
“14 percent of African-American Texans are diagnosed with type-2 diabetes in comparison to only 8 percent of white Texans,” Harvey states. “As health education specialists, we need to figure out how to create programs to help people change their health behavior. Health education can give individuals a set of skills to impact their health, their family’s health and the health of their community.”
Much of Harvey’s research has led her to a variety of cities across the nation working with diverse communities including, low-income, rural, urban, African and Caribbean Americans, aging, and LGBT populations. Across these communities, Harvey notes continued disparities that challenge our society as people of all ages from different communities still do not have adequate health care, proper health education or access to fresh produce.
“The infrastructure of where people reside and its resources are very much linked to health disparities. When these factors do not support the individual’s lifestyle and people have to deal with stress, racism and sexism, all of those things impact health disparities,” she said.
In a research study conducted at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Harvey and her colleagues found huge disparities in the supermarkets in Detroit metropolitan area compared to the suburbs of the city. Harvey used these findings to showcase the importance of applying knowledge to “real world” situations and to think “outside the box” as a health education specialist.
“How can we ask individuals to eat healthy, if there is not an infrastructure to support healthy eating behaviors?” Harvey asked. “The same can be said for any health behavior change, we as health education specialists need to understand the reality in which our clients live on a day-to-day basis.”
She found that by using this case study, students in her class began to understand how the shortage of grocery stores not only played a vital role in people’s diets, but also how it can be used to examine other indicators for health and well being.
“We must be able to ask more questions to understand the lived experience; so that we can in turn, develop programs to match their reality,” she said.
Social support is another significant component in reaching minority and underserved communities. Harvey said that community insight and education helps fill the gaps in health disparities. Health education specialists play a vital role in developing partnerships to build community capacity to implement and sustain health initiatives.
“There are certain things that can’t change so we have to ask ourselves ‘what can we bring into a community to help in the process and to enhance social capital to improve health behaviors,’” she said.
As a professor, Dr. Harvey encourages her students to go beyond the classroom walls to reach the people involved in these communities. According to Harvey, this also means using prior knowledge to help form creative breakthroughs.
“You can’t have a textbook response; you have to be able to think outside of the box,” she said. “What I try to do with my students is tell them that whatever bias they have, they must admit to it and move past that bias so they can actually see people. That’s the first hurdle they must overcome in order to be a part of the solution.”
Dr. R. Malatesha Joshi, University Professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture, has been elected to the Reading Hall of Fame.
New guidance from public health officals sets guidelines for students and teachers return to school in the Fall.
A new grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration awarded to Dr. Carly McCord at Texas A&M University looks to reduce a shortage of adolescent mental health professionals by providing necessary funding and training.
Sea otters are the smallest marine mammal. As cold-water dwellers, staying warm is a top priority, but their dense fur only goes so far. We have long known that high metabolism generates the heat they need to survive, but we didn’t know how they were producing the heat — until now.
In the United States, many students, especially women, do not pursue STEM because their interest in it is not fostered and the content is not tailored to their interests. In 2017, the number of STEM job openings outnumbered the amount of available graduates.
The Texas Workforce Commission recently awarded $2.4 million to Dr. Dan Zhang, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, to implement work-based learning programs in selected high schools.
Tong said her research experience has prepared her to step up and help her colleagues within the department continue their highly-recognized work and commitment to excellence.
Picture someone who is physically fit. You most likely did not think of someone over the age of 65, did you? The implicit bias you just encountered is an example of ageism in the health and fitness industry.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Latinx students are enrolling at historically high levels. Although enrollment is high, scholars find that degree completion rates are low, especially for Latinx male students.
Dr. Kay Wijekumar, alongside a team of researchers, recently published a study analyzing ELLs and their writing. She said the study is part of a broader scope to find challenges facing native Spanish-speaking English learners and ways to address them.