November 1, 2002

Public health leaders from around Tarrant County are working together to address hypertension and other public health issues in the community.

Douglas Mains, DrPH, assistant professor of health management and policy in the health science centerâ??s School of Public Health, is a member of a Texas-based team participating in the National Public Health Leadership Institute. Others from Tarrant County include Lou Brewer, RN, MPH, director of the Tarrant County Public Health Department, Dan Reimer, MPH, director of the City of Fort Worth Public Health Department, and Barclay Berdan, president of Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital.

About 15 teams of public health professionals from around the country are involved in the national leadership development program. As part of the two-year program, the teams learn about public health issues and develop their skills in addressing those issues.

â??Through the training, members develop individual leadership skills while their institution benefits from their increased networking and knowledge. At the same time, weâ??re working on programs that help the entire community,â? Dr. Mains said.

The Texas team has helped the â??Healthy Tarrant Countyâ? collaboration address hypertension, or high blood pressure, as an emerging health issue in Tarrant County. Healthy Tarrant County is a partnership involving local hospitals, public health departments, social service agencies and UNT Health Science Center.

According to American Heart Association statistics, more than 31 percent of people with high blood pressure are unaware that they have it. In addition, 26 percent of people with high blood pressure are on medication for it, but do not have it under control.

The project involves an in-depth intervention in the Stop Six neighborhood of Fort Worth, an area identified as having a population with a high incidence of hypertension. Surveys have been conducted in schools, restaurants and selected worksites to assess current behaviors and identify possible improvements. Church members in the neighborhood have also been trained to educate their fellow parishioners on the health issue. Each church was supplied with a blood pressure cuff and other tools to help assess high blood pressure.

The group is also developing a countywide hypertension awareness campaign that will use community newspapers and other media to distribute educational messages.

The teamâ??s work with Healthy Tarrant County recently received recognition on a national level. The national PHLI selected the Texas team as one of three runners up for its 2002 Balderson Leadership Project Award. The team will receive a certificate, a cash award and the opportunity to present the project during the American Public Health Associationâ??s conference this month in Philadelphia.

â??Healthy Tarrant County builds bridges between the various agencies,â? Dr. Mains said. â??The agencies are already acquainted with each other, but through the collaboration, weâ??ve truly become a team focused on the communityâ??s health.â?

After spending the last year training in the National Public Health Leadership Institute program, the team is now working with the Texas Public Health Leadership Institute to develop a statewide training program.The team is reviewing the Texas instituteâ??s curriculum to ensure that it contains the most current information and working with the board to develop a pilot program in north Texas. It is also assisting with funding requests to address the ongoing need for program funding.

Dr. Mains is not the first to represent the health science center in the national institute. Adela Gonzalez, PhD, vice president for institutional and strategic affairs, and Bob Galvan, MPH, associate dean of the School of Public Health, are both graduates of the national program. Galvan now serves as chair of the board for the Texas institute.


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