Brownsville Farmers’ Market, a UTHealth initiative, selected as Border Model of Excellence
HOUSTON – (June 3, 2010) - The United States-Mexico Border Health Commission (BHC) recently selected the Brownsville Farmers’ Market as a recipient of the 2010 Border Model of Excellence in Childhood Obesity award.
The Brownsville Farmers’ Market is a program of the Brownsville-Matamoros Binational Health Council, which includes The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). The market offers fresh, affordable produce to all families in the area and reaches low-income families through a farm-fresh voucher program and Brown Bag Program funded through a grant by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“The market is a success because of the strong community partnerships and our history of working together to address local health issues,” said Belinda Reininger, Dr.PH., associate professor at The University of Texas School of Public Health Brownsville Regional Campus, part of UTHealth. “The credit belongs to the whole community!”
The Brownsville Farmer’s Market was the brainchild of Reininger, who is part of a team whose research revealed that the predominately Hispanic community of Brownsville had much higher prevalence of diabetes than the national average. Diabetes is a co-morbidity of obesity. The idea was developed in 2008 when graduate students, faculty members at the UTHealth School of Public Health Brownsville Regional Campus, Su Clinica Familiar, Texas Department of State Health Services and many other community partners saw a desperate need to provide residents with resources to prevent obesity and diabetes.
The market was one of just two programs selected by the BHC as the most successful and/or promising models of excellence addressing childhood obesity issues through education, prevention or services. The BHC was created in 2004 to provide international leadership to optimize health and quality of life along the U.S.-Mexico border. Representatives of the Brownsville Farmers’ Market accepted the award on May 26 in San Diego.
The market hosts up to 23 local vendors and averages more than 650 visitors, including 400 adults and 250 children, every week. It also provides nutritional education, obesity prevention and health services while simultaneously urging the community to make positive changes aimed toward living a healthier lifestyle. The BHC will feature the market in one of its publications as a model for other communities.
“These wonderful partners have embraced the idea that our city should have a family-friendly location promoting health to people of all walks of life,” said Arturo Rodriguez, director of the City of Brownsville Department of Health.
The market places special emphasis on reaching low-income families. “Our most effective strategy for reaching Brownsville families has been using community health workers who visit our low-income neighborhoods to distribute vouchers and discuss health benefits of eating fresh produce,” Reininger said. Through a grant received from the Texas Department of State Health Services, more than $30,000 worth of vouchers have been distributed in farm-fresh vouchers. Plans are in place to continue the voucher program during the next market season through additional grant monies received by Su Clinica Familiar, a federally qualified health center serving the Brownsville area.
More than 44 organizations have provided support for the Brownsville Farmers’ Market in the form of volunteer hours, health screenings, educational sessions, entertainment and financial support. Some partners include Valley Baptist Medical Center – Brownsville, Texas Department of State Health Services, Girl Scout Troops, Good Neighbor Settlement House, Proyecto Juan Diego, Sunshine Haven Hospice, United Way of Southern Cameron County and the Brownsville Independent School District. Other efforts to address obesity in Brownsville include two UTHealth School of Public Health programs, the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) program in Brownsville elementary schools and Tu Salud Si Cuenta, a local media campaign to prevent obesity.
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