School of Public Health

SPH news

Posted Date: April 17, 2019

By Sally Crocker

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Dr. Migala taking office as new TPHA president

 

Dr. Witold Migala is ready to hit the road again.

The epidemiologist who has traveled the world helping people from Haiti and Madagascar to Nigeria and beyond has lived, worked in or experienced more than 75 countries during his lifetime.

He was in the first UNT Health Science Center cohort to graduate with the Master of Public Health degree back in 1997 and subsequently earned his PhD through UNTHSC’s up-and-coming, new Public Health program in 2000.

He returned in recent years to teach for the School of Public Health (SPH) and serve as director of its MPH in Epidemiology program.

Not surprisingly, he also developed the school’s Global Health Graduate Certificate program.

Never one to settle in a typical office space for too long, Dr. Migala recently felt the familiar call back to international field work, leading to the next phase of his career that begins this summer.

As he takes on a new role as President of the Texas Public Health Association (TPHA) and transitions to adjunct professor status with the SPH, Dr. Migala plans to continue representing UNT Health Science Center and the strides that students, faculty and alumni are making to improve public health around the world, as he himself goes back out on the road to real-life practice.

“It hit me one day while I was going through pictures I use in my classes that they seemed fairly dated and I probably needed more recent examples of field work if I’m going to share them with students,” he said.

UNTHSC students have gained real-life perspectives far beyond traditional textbook cases and study examples by learning from Dr. Migala’s own international experiences with the CDC, World Health Organization and other agencies, where he has helped develop immunization initiatives and other international health service programs.

“I’ve always felt at home delivering healthcare services to isolated communities where people don’t have the basic resources that most of us take for granted here in the United States, and it just seems like it’s time for me to get back on the road,” he said. “At its root, public health is as much global as it is local.”

He once traveled by four-wheel drive and motorcycle, via canoe and on foot to 58 remote medical clinics in Madagascar over 90 days, sleeping wherever he could on floors, hospital beds and chairs in order to track down possible polio cases and help confer the country’s first year “eradication status” on behalf of the United Nations.

This is a key part of international work that many people might not initially consider, and it’s challenging, Dr. Migala said.

“We don’t always think about the bugs and the heat, the health and safety risks, lack of accommodations and food options, the long hours traveling in trucks on unpaved roads to reach places where even the most basic resources are scarce,” he said. “Personally, that’s the part I love the most.”

There are also significant victories that can only happen when people come together on a very personal level regardless of culture, language and other differences, like the time Dr. Migala worked closely with tribal elders and traditional healers in one reluctant village to immunize against polio.

Over time, he was able to gain their trust and support enough that the chief leader volunteered his young son to be the first for vaccination.

Other global health initiatives he has been a part of have addressed cholera, typhoid fever and infectious and parasitic outbreaks that are relatively unheard of in the United States.

Back home, an important part of Dr. Migala’s experience was also gained in the North Texas area.

He spent a decade as Chief Epidemiologist for the City of Fort Worth, managing the community’s Bioterrorism and Emergency Preparedness Program for six of those years.

“Fort Worth’s population at that time was around 780,000, and the response planning goal was to be able to mobilize local resources to provide medication to all citizens within 48 hours,” he said. “I find myself drawn to complex challenges like this, involving systems development, administrative processes and managerial oversight.”

Complex challenges are, indeed, the driving force behind Dr. Migala’s latest career move.

Returning to life on the road might not be easy but it’s important.

For this roving epidemiologist, it’s the passion, and maybe a healthy dose of wanderlust, that keeps him moving.

Posted Date: April 12, 2019

By Sally Crocker

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The School of Public Health recently recognized 2018-19 academic year student, faculty and staff accomplishments at its annual End of Year Celebration.

 This year’s Dean’s List honorees, representing a select group who achieved excellence in their academic program, including those at the top 10% of their class, were:
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  • Victoria Carver
  • Ambriale Davis
  • Diana Edwards
  • Deepika Kamath
  • David Kauvar
  • Priscilla Kha
  • Monica Kovuri
  • Elvis Longanga
  • Joel Massey
  • Sarah Matthes
  • Laura Mayfield
  • Kimberly Morris
  • Emma Nalin
  • Megan Nolte
  • Sarah Ortiz
  • Amruta Sakhalkar
  • Sarah Shin-Kim

The Dean’s Award for Scholarly Excellence in Academics was presented to Carolyn Bradley-Guidry.

The Dean’s Award for Scholarly Excellence in Research was presented to Shlesma Chhetri.

Sph2019 Grad Celebration3aThree SPH students were admitted into the UNTHSC Alpha Sigma Chapter of Delta Omega public health national honor society, based on their academic excellence, leadership and commitment to the field of public health: Priscilla Kha, Sarah Matthes and Kimberly Morris.

Three SPH alumni were inducted into Delta Omega this year: Leslie Allsopp, Amy Board and Joel Massey.

For his dedication to teaching, research and always being available to help students in need of assistance with statistics, SPH faculty member Dr. Subhash Aryal was also inducted into Delta Omega.

Each year, the SPH chapter selects one community member into Honorary Delta Omega membership, in recognition of exceptional qualifications, distinction in the field and a commitment to improving life and health in the community.

This year’s honoree was Patsy Thomas.

As one who has been dedicated to improving public health for many years in Fort Worth and Tarrant County, Thomas was responsible for establishing the private Fort Worth Academy for grades K-8, building a nationally-noted crime prevention program and resource center in the local area, and lending leadership guidance in the development of a comprehensive, multi-agency mental health collaboration that has brought millions in grant funding to local and regional initiatives.

This year’s Leon Brachman Award was presented to SPH student Kimberly Morris.

The Brachman award is given annually to a public health student in the MPH or MHA program demonstrating exemplary academic achievement in his or her graduate course of study, as demonstrated by overall grade point average, quality of projects/presentations and written and oral communication skills.

The award is named in honor of the community leader and philanthropist Leon Brachman, who helped establish the UNTHSC School of Public Health in 1999.

The student winner of this year’s Kenneth Cooper Award was Joel Massey.

This award –named for best-selling author and internationally known health/wellness guru Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, who started the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas in 1970 and pioneered the concept of preventive medicine and healthy lifestyle – honors one student each year who most accurately reflects the leadership and community service qualities demonstrated by Kenneth Cooper.

Dr. Cooper was among a small steering committee of North Texas community leaders who first proposed bringing a school of public health to the local area, back in 1992.

Img 1981aSarah Matthes was presented with the Bob Crow Award, named for the former executive director of the Texas charitable Amon G. Carter Foundation and past member of the school’s Steering Committee, recognizing an outstanding MPH or MHA student with exemplary leadership and service to the school and community.

Ela Vashishtha was presented with this year’s Richard S. Kurz Award, established in 2012 in honor of SPH Dean Emeritus Dr. Richard Kurz, who led the UNTHSC School of Public Health from 2007 to 2015. This award is given to an outstanding student who emulates the leadership, accomplishments and visionary qualities of Dean Kurz.

Alexis Rendon received the Outstanding Student Paper Award, recognizing high quality work in research papers, as determined by quality of the journal, sophistication of the analyses and importance of the conclusions.

SPH Recognition Awards were also presented to honor faculty for excellent/impactful teaching, research or service, and to recognize SPH staff for major contributions during the previous 12 months.  All were nominated by their peers, with award selections made by a committee of non-administrative faculty and staff.

Honorees this year were:

  • Excellence in Teaching – Dr. Witold Migala
  • Excellence in Service – Dr. David Sterling
  • Outstanding Faculty in Research – Dr. Melissa Lewis
  • Excellent Performance by a Staff Member – Vikas Tomer

 

The UNTHSC Public Health Student Government Association (PHSGA) also presented honors, highlighting faculty and staff members for going above and beyond in support of SPH students.

The awards were created to recognize faculty and staff who have supported students through quality teaching, research, advising and service, as voted on by the student body.

Honored were:

  • Outstanding Faculty in Teaching award, Department of Health Behavior and Health Systems – Dr. Thad Miller
  • Outstanding Faculty Member in Teaching, Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology – Dr. Katherine Fogelberg
  • Outstanding Faculty Member in Research, Department of Health Behavior and Health Systems – Dr. Erika Thompson
  • Outstanding Faculty Member in Research, Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology – Dr. Subhash Aryal
  • Outstanding Faculty Advisor – Dr. Liam O’Neill
  • Outstanding Public Health Staff Member – Katie Cantu Anguiano

“The School of Public Health extends congratulations to all of this year’s honorees,” said Dr. Dennis Thombs, SPH Dean. “All of the hard work and the strides in public health academics, research, community service, teaching and leadership that these individuals are making is noteworthy and truly inspiring.”

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Posted Date: April 1, 2019

By Sally Crocker

Rad Winners 2019

2019 SPH student/alumni honorees with SPH Dean, Dr. Dennis Thombs

UNTHSC School of Public Health (SPH) students Cassidy Loparco, Roslin Jose and Sarah Matthes, along with SPH alum and current TCOM student Brandon Hoff, were all honored for their winning poster presentations at this year’s UNTHSC Research Appreciation Day (RAD), held March 29.

RAD is a longstanding UNTHSC tradition bringing together the university’s work in the areas of public health, medicine and basic science.

The program provides an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to share their research efforts with the campus community and the public.

The program encourages the development of joint research projects and increases the community’s awareness of the outstanding quality and range of research conducted at UNT Health Science Center.

Since its beginnings, RAD has featured outstanding speakers, quality research and rewarded students and team members for their achievements.

This year, more than 300 posters and presentations were entered into RAD 2019, offering an exciting day of networking, honors and information sharing.

The SPH winners and their presentations focused on:

  • First Place, Cassidy Loparco, “Examining Willingness and Intentions to Drink Alcohol as Predictors of Protective Behavioral Strategies.”
  • Second Place, Roslin Jose, “Developing Tuberculosis Prevention Strategies via Interdisciplinary Systems-Thinking: Latent Tuberculosis Infection Risk Recognition and Care.” Jose was also awarded First Place in the Interdisciplinary Practice category. Student co-authors/collaborators on the project were Shlesma Chhetri and Eleena Dhaka.
  • Third Place, Sarah Matthes, “The Cost of DIY: Correlates of Women’s Willingness to Pay for At-Home HPV Self-Sampling.”
  • Three awards went to Brandon Hoff, who presented on “The Association Between Human Papillomavirus Vaccination and State Medicaid Expansion.” He was honored for “Health Care Delivery” by UNT Health, “Best in First Year Class” by the UNTHSC Medical Student Government Association, and received the First Place Student Research Award from TCOM.

“Congratulations to all of this year’s RAD winners for their hard work and the advancements they are making in their field,” said Dr. Dennis Thombs, SPH Dean. “This year’s event was a huge success, and we look forward to another stimulating program next spring.”

Posted Date: March 28, 2019

By Sally Crocker

RobynOne of Robyn Remotigue’s most prized possessions is a painting that highlights the word “service,” recently presented in thanks by a university colleague in Puerto Rico.

In the wake of 2017’s devastating strike of Hurricane Maria, residents have struggled to repair the damage and resume important community services. Schools, too, were hit hard.

So when a traveling team of board members and educators representing the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) offered to bring free professional development workshops to the universities there who are still impacted by the disaster in many ways, it was a time of sharing information, offering support, extending goodwill and exchanging many heartfelt hugs.

“A warm embrace, even a kiss on the cheek, is a fairly common greeting in Puerto Rico, and as about 200 attendees arrived, we found ourselves welcomed in the most touching way,” Remotigue said.

A member of the board and traveling workshop faculty for NCURA and Director of Research Services for the UNTHSC School of Public Health, Remotigue has spent more than 20 years in the field of research administration and was eager to volunteer her time for this visit.

“Some of the attendees had traveled up to three hours to reach us, between mountains and on still damaged roads under construction. Many had never met their colleagues from other parts of the island, and they were so grateful that NCURA could bring everyone together in this way,” she said. “It was a very humbling experience.”

The workshop presenters themselves traveled close to an hour to reach the event location at Ana G. Méndez University, offering two days of information on critical research administration issues, as well as current hot topics of interest to the audience.

Attendees were fellow research administrators, faculty and university leaders from among Puerto Rico’s 58 local colleges and universities.

With a colleague from Auburn University, Remotigue presented on Research in Compliance, Subcontracts and the Importance of Sub-recipient Monitoring, Review and Negotiation of Agreements, and Research Award Management.

At a reception following, Ana G. Mendez University leader Dr. E. David Méndez Pagán presented NCURA’s team with very personal, meaningful gifts of thanks, created in his own studio.

An artist as well as educator whose works are displayed across the campus, he sent each lecturer home with a signed, numbered painting reflecting themes of service and continuing good friendship.

“Amid all the struggles that the island has faced since Hurricane Maria battered through, it was powerful to connect with our new friends and show support,” Remotigue said. “I feel very honored to have been a part of this effort.”

Posted Date: March 18, 2019

By Sally Crocker

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Dr. Erica Stockbridge

A new study by UNTHSC public health researchers points to important information that may help health care providers, policymakers and insurance payers reduce the risk of preventable hospitalizations for diabetes patients by providing insight into the relationship between these hospitalizations and behavioral health conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and drug or alcohol abuse.

“An estimated 30.3 million people in the U.S. are living with diabetes, which accounted for about $237 billion in direct medical costs for the year 2017,” said Dr. Erica Stockbridge, Assistant Professor of Health Behavior and Health Systems at the UNTHSC School of Public Health, and lead author of a new article published by PLOS ONE. “Costs for diabetes patients are approximately 2.3 times higher than for other patients, often from complications that could be prevented through timely, high-quality, ongoing outpatient care.”

To analyze the impact of mental health conditions and substance use disorders on these types of potentially preventable hospitalizations, the researchers reviewed the medical and pharmacy claims data of 229,039 commercially insured, working age persons with diabetes from across the U.S. In total, 3,246 of those persons experienced a total of 4,521 preventable hospitalizations between 2011 and 2013.

Diabetes patients with a co-occurring behavioral health condition were at disproportionately high risk for diabetes-related potentially preventable hospitalizations; the 20.8% of persons with both diabetes and behavioral health conditions experienced 43.6% of all diabetes preventable hospitalizations.

The research team found that schizophrenia and alcohol use disorder increased the potential for hospitalization but not repeat admissions. In contrast to previous studies, the UNTHSC researchers did not find a significant link between anxiety disorders and preventable diabetes hospitalizations.

The researchers recommend additional, future study into the unique challenges facing diabetes patients who also suffer from substance abuse, as their hospitalizations and repeat health relapses may be due in large part to “neglect of other areas of their life while spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using or recovering from their substance(s) of choice.”

The groups at greatest risk for experiencing recurring preventable admissions were those with depression, those with drug use disorder and those with multiple behavioral health conditions.

More than one third of persons with co-occurring diabetes and behavioral health conditions were diagnosed with multiple behavioral health conditions, emphasizing the importance of looking at the patient’s total health picture, rather than each mental or physical health concern separately.

“Our findings point to the importance of integrating how diabetes patients’ complex physical and underlying behavioral health needs are screened, diagnosed and addressed,” Dr. Stockbridge said. “When physical and mental health providers and insurance payers are aligned as one team, there are opportunities to develop more encompassing and effective treatment plans that deliver quality care and behavioral interventions outside the hospital.”

Posted Date: March 14, 2019

By Sally Crocker

Nphw Banner

 

National Public Health Week 2019 is on the way.

The week will be celebrated April 1-7, and this year’s theme is “Creating the Healthiest Nation: For science. For action. For health.”

Each day of National Public Health Week (NPHW) – developed by the American Public Health Association (APHA) to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving the health of the nation – will focus on a different topic, including healthy communities, violence prevention, rural health, technology and public health, climate change and global health.

NPHW offers a unique opportunity for working together both locally and nationally in helping to create innovative ideas and directions for the future of the nation’s health.

UNTHSC School of Public Health activities are being planned to take part in this initiative, and students, faculty and staff are encouraged to participate in these local events, organized by the UNTHSC Public Health Student Government Association (PHSGA).

SPH events will include a campus health fair, a movie screening and discussions on climate change, a program on ending the cycle of violence in coordination with JPS Health Network Trauma Services, guest speaker visits and other activities.

The week will conclude on Sunday, April 7, with SPH participation in this year’s “Girls Run Red 5K,” supporting efforts to empower young girls and women globally through education and other important initiatives. Registration information for this event can be found on Facebook through this link.

Public Health Week

Posted Date: March 5, 2019

By Sally Crocker

United Way2

 

A team of UNTHSC researchers has recently completed a comprehensive community assessment for United Way of Tarrant County that will help set the organization’s strategic direction for years to come.

Findings from this extensive study, which uncovered some of the most pressing social issues affecting the health and prosperity of the Tarrant County population, were recently presented at community meetings around Fort Worth, Arlington and the Mid Cities.

Led by Dr. Emily Spence-Almaguer, Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Health Equity at the UNTHSC School of Public Health, along with Dr. Karen Bell, UNTHSC Assistant Professor of Health Behavior and Health Systems, and Project Director Danielle Rohr, MS, the assessment incorporated months of in-depth, one-on-one interviews and focus groups with local leaders, civic representatives and citizens, to not just address areas of need but analyze and determine the root causes for solving them.

Survey participants ranged from age 18 to 96.

Approximately 67% were female, and the research team traveled throughout Tarrant County to speak with a diversity of residents and stakeholders, reaching 91% of local zip codes.

At two million people and growing, Tarrant County is the third most populous county in Texas and the 16th largest in the United States. Yet, 23% of area families earn less than $35,000, making housing unaffordable for many. In 2018, more than 2,000 people were identified as homeless in Tarrant and Parker counties.

Lack of safe shelter and transportation were found to greatly impact health care access and well-being, and basic needs like food, hygiene, electricity and clothing were often found to be overshadowed by larger issues like employment and education.

Overall, the top identified issues for area residents were found to be housing and homelessness; physical/mental health and wellness; transportation; education, childcare, early childhood and youth services; basic needs, emergency assistance and financial stability.

“Many organizations in the community provide services addressing these different needs,” said Leah M. King, United Way Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, “making the goal of this study to specifically determine the best ways that United Way can support and work alongside these partners to have a greater impact for local individuals and families moving forward.”

“While many of these issues are not new,” she said, “the community assessment highlights how they are interconnected and how they compound challenges for residents and their quality of life. The results of this UNTHSC study have helped provide guidance on how United Way can partner, lead, listen and work in providing future leadership and harnessing resources to solve Tarrant County’s toughest social challenges.”

The research was made possible through a $250,000 grant from the Sid W. Richardson Foundation.

 

Posted Date: February 25, 2019

By Sally Crocker

Litt Lewis Twitter Graphic

Proportion of Users Who Tweeted Each of the Most Common Alcohol Emojis

Young adults’ social media chatter may reveal a lot about drinking behavior and intentions, say two UNTHSC public health researchers.

A new study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence by Dr. Dana M. Litt, Dr. Melissa A. Lewis and colleagues, examined a random, national sample of 5,000 Twitter posts from young adult drinkers ages 18-20, finding a significant link between alcohol-related tweets, willingness to drink, alcohol use and negative consequences.

The UNTHSC researchers, led by Dr. Lewis, are currently conducting a five-year, $2.4 million study examining an online intervention to reduce alcohol use and related risky behaviors among young adults, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Participants electing to share data from their public Twitter accounts provided insight into the relationship between their social media postings and self-reported alcohol behaviors, attitudes and risk perceptions.

“The majority of social media research in this area has focused on Facebook,” Dr. Litt said. “Few studies to date have looked specifically at Twitter, and of those, most have just looked at trends of alcohol-related Twitter chatter and have not linked them directly to self-reported behavior.  Thus, the relationship between Twitter posts and users’ actual behavior were not really known.”

This new research is also the first to look at emojis as a form of alcohol-related Twitter conversations. Digital images representing clinking beer mugs, wine or cocktail glasses and tropical drinks are some of the more common emojis used to connote drinking.

The research team used custom computer programming to search users’ Twitter content for explicit alcohol-identifying words and slang as well, such as drunk, drinking, hungover, wasted, booze and others. Additional hands-on coding by researchers helped eliminate non-applicable Tweets, like “I can’t stop drinking coffee” or “I dare you to drink a whole gallon of milk.”

Over half of those studied (53%) had posted a tweet with the word “drunk,” and over one third had tweeted a message using the term “wasted.” Over 28% of users surveyed had posted at least one tweet with an alcohol-related emoji.

While demographic variables like gender, age and ethnicity were not identified as predictors of willingness to drink, problem drinking or alcohol-related negative consequences, the research did find that posting a higher proportion of alcohol-related tweets was a positive indicator of all three alcohol-related outcomes.

“This has important implications for parents of teens and younger adults, especially, who may want to set up ground rules on who their kids can follow, or perhaps follow them too,” Dr. Lewis said.

Understanding the connections between Twitter behavior and alcohol-related beliefs and actions, the researchers concluded, can be a key step in identifying those who may be most at risk and in turn, developing public health education and interventions.

The researchers recommend similar, future study into other forms of popular and emerging social networking sites, such as Snapchat and Instagram.

“Social media has created a unique window into people’s thoughts, and our research indicates that there is certainly an association between what you’re posting on Twitter, what you’re thinking about doing and what you end up doing in reality,” Dr. Litt said. “Knowing that alcohol-related Twitter activity seems to reflect one’s actual behavior is important knowledge for researchers, public-health practitioners and parents alike.”

Posted Date: February 19, 2019

By Sally Crocker

Thad Miller Martin OstensenTwo UNTHSC School of Public Health professors – Thad Miller, DrPH, MPH, and Martin Ostensen, JD, MBA, MHA, from the SPH Department of Health Behavior and Health Systems – recently served as expert panelists to provide perspectives and commentary following a recent City of Fort Worth Human Relations Commission community screening of the film Power to Heal, a documentary on Medicare and the civil rights revolution.

The City’s free Movies that Matter series is offered bi-monthly in celebration of diversity and inclusion.

The hour-long Power to Heal tells the story of the historic 1960s struggle to secure equal and adequate access to healthcare for all Americans.

Panel DiscussionCentral to the documentary is the unfolding of a new national program, Medicare, which helped launch a dramatic, coordinated effort that desegregated thousands of hospitals across the U.S. within months.

Prior to Medicare, less than half of the country’s hospitals served black and white patients equally, and in the South, one third of hospitals would not admit African-Americans, even for emergencies. The movie illustrates how this movement toward justice and fairness for African-Americans was achieved.

Dr. Miller and Professor Ostensen both teach in the UNTHSC Master of Health Administration (MHA) program. Ostensen serves as MHA Program Director.

Posted Date: January 16, 2019

By Sally Crocker

Homeless Count
Groups of UNTHSC students, faculty and staff are being organized by the School of Public Health to assist with this year’s Tarrant County Homeless Count on January 24.

Dr. Emily Spence-Almaguer, SPH Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Health Equity, makes this volunteer endeavor part of her public health classes each year, giving students an opportunity to opt out of a quiz by joining in this effort to locate, count and survey individuals spending the night on local streets or in places that aren’t meant for sleeping and living.

Over the years, many others from UNTHSC have joined in to help as well.

The local efforts are part of a larger national initiative that includes police departments, government officials, church and neighborhood groups, nonprofit organizations, universities and other invested citizens across the U.S. who help gather data used to analyze and address the changing trends, extent and nature of homeless across the country.

Information gathered is used each year to measure the progress being made in the community and on a national scale to end homelessness.

According to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development data from the 2018 national count, about 553,000 people in the United States experienced homelessness on a single night last year.

About 65% were staying in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs, and the rest were in unsheltered locations, on the streets, in or behind abandoned buildings, under bridges or living in other places not suitable for human habitation.

“Our community saw the Tarrant and Parker county numbers increase by 5% in 2018. On the night of the count, we found 2,015 individuals, as compared to the approximately 1,924 persons counted on the 2017 night,” said Tammy McGhee, Executive Director of the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition.

The numbers are even more staggering, McGhee said, when taking into account the thousands of others in North Texas who are without a stable home, living in week-to-week motels, doubled up with friends or families, or in other precarious and unpredictable living situations.

UNTHSC has long been a partner with the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, to help address this issue and meet the needs of this population.

“Everyone deserves a safe and adequate place to call home,” Dr. Spence-Almaguer said. “Through the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition and its many partners in healthcare, mental health, education, first response, faith and community services, local government and other areas, thousands are able to access resources each year to help get back on their feet.”

The needs are varied and many.

Mental and physical health, and having necessary prescription medicines available with a place to store them, can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

For those living on the street in winter or during other extreme weather conditions, McGhee said, there are options available for a warm, safe and dry place to sleep, from temporary shelters and transitional housing to longer-term programs.

Through the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, individuals can also connect with resources for employment, transportation, family assistance, counseling and other services.

“Housing is one of the most important factors,” McGhee said. “Finding a place to live is the first start.”

UNTHSC has long been involved as an active community partner in various ways, through research and educational programs, planning and advisement, School of Public Health student internships and broad volunteerism.

“Being a part of the homeless count each year helps us learn more about what these individuals need and how we as a community can best help,” Dr. Spence-Almaguer said.

To learn more and be a part of this year’s January 24 Tarrant County Homeless Count effort, visit http://ahomewithhope.org.

More than 500 volunteers are needed to help in Tarrant and Parker counties.