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UTHealth community health workers win APHA prize

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HOUSTON – (Nov. 16, 2015) – A team of Community Health Workers (CHWs) from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health Brownsville Regional Campus has been selected as this year's recipient of the American Public Health Association's 2015 CHW outstanding group award.

The CHWs, who work with UTHealth School of Public Health Brownsville Regional Campus's Tu Salud ¡Si Cuenta! initiative, were recognized during a recent ceremony at the association's annual meeting in Chicago. The group was represented by Silvia Garcia, Marcelina Martinez, Angelica Muniz and Arisve Ramirez. Vanessa Saldana, program manager and CHW supervisor, was also in attendance.

Tu Salud ¡Si Cuenta! was created as a response to the obesity crisis facing the Rio Grande Valley. When researchers at the School of Public Health found that 80 percent of Brownsville adults were overweight or obese, they created a movement within the community to implement evidence-based solutions to improve health.

Among these solutions were a county-wide media campaign, farmers market, community garden program, annual weight loss competition and events that open the streets for pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy. These solutions were implemented with the City of Brownsville, Brownsville Wellness Coalition and a large, active community advisory board. The group was honored with the Culture of Health Prize from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2014.

The media campaign originated with weekly segments on local Spanish media outlets, which highlighted community role models who were making healthy changes and provided a medium to translate important research findings to the public. The campaign has since expanded to include English media outlets and social media channels.

"This group of CHWs was recognized for dedication, leadership and talent in delivering the Tu Salud ¡Si Cuenta! community-wide campaign, which promotes physical activity and healthful food choices. The Brownsville campus is proud of these women and the other community health workers on our teams," said Belinda Reininger, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences and faculty member at the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at the School of Public Health.

The award aims to recognize the dedication of CHWs to their work and their efforts to benefit their community and clients; raise awareness of the profile of CHWs in the United States and other countries; promote group work by acknowledging initiative that has been undertaken collectively to encourage groups to improve their overall programming; and provide cross-country recognition for innovative and high quality programs.

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