May 6, 2017

The “Healthy Families, Healthy Communities Expo” came to Laredo, McAllen and Victoria to engage families in those regions. The expos, community events hosted by Texas A&M Healthy South Texas, provided education, demonstrations and information about lifestyle changes to improve the well-being and health outcomes of more than 1,000 expectant mothers, young parents and families in attendance.

“We feel it is important for families to know the importance of engaging in healthy behaviors very early in life so that young children grow up to be healthy adults,” said Marcia Ory, PhD, MPH, co-director of Healthy South Texas, regents and distinguished professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health and founding director of the Center for Population Health and Aging at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center.

A number of vendors from area organizations provided resources in wellness, nutrition, physical activity, parenting, safety, health education and more. Free health screenings for A1C, blood glucose, blood pressure, weight, body mass and body fat percentage were also provided.

The events, hosted by Healthy South Texas, an unprecedented effort by the Texas A&M Health Science Center and the AgriLife Extension Service to promote preventive health across the region, encouraged participants to sign up for programs that focus on reducing the highest impact diseases and their consequences, including diabetes, asthma and infectious disease.

“The underlying message is that healthy families composed of individuals of all ages make for healthy communities. Healthy South Texas has a variety of health and wellness programs appropriate across the lifespan,” Ory said.

Many health and wellness education programs are currently provided in the counties surrounding the cities in which the events were held. Such programs include nutrition and healthy food preparation, cooking tips, menu planning basics, physical activity and gardening. Volunteer training is also available for those who would like to support and teach others.

“By connecting families with local services, resources and health education information, we hope to improve access to programs that can equip them with the knowledge and skills to live healthier and, ultimately, reduce preventable diseases,” said Elaine Fries, PhD, associate director of programs for Healthy South Texas.

Major door prizes were given away at the expos, including cribs, toddler beds, kids’ sports packages, car seats and more. In addition, families who attended received free diapers.

-Lindsey Hendrix, Les D. Cockrell