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Houston, Prairie View A&M Launch Program To Close Health Disparities

A sign at Prairie View A&M University.
Prairie View A&M University

The program will focus on Houston neighborhoods identified as food deserts.

A new program to address health disparities in Houston will target 10 underresourced neighborhoods considered local food deserts, in order to improve health outcomes among underserved populations.

The City of Houston is launching The Healthy Houston Initiative, a partnership with Prairie View A&M University to address health disparities Third Ward, Sunnyside, Kashmere Garden, Acres Homes and more. Officials chose those communities because they have experienced a historical lack of private and public investment.

"Every Houstonian has a right to make the choice to live in the neighborhood where he or she grew up and have the same amenities in their communities that are commonplace in so many other neighborhoods in our city," said Mayor Sylvester Turner.

The program will include education about nutrition and financial planning, mental health and first-aid training, youth development, and telehealth screenings for conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

The resources will be offered both in-person and virtually.

Dr. Gerard D'Souza, the Dean of Agriculture and Human Sciences at Prairie View A&M, said nutrition is a big part of good health.

"We know that food is life, beyond that food is health," said Dr. D'Souza. "It’s well known that unhealthy eating is the number one risk factor for premature death. Thus, a key component of the Healthy Houston Initiative is how food can contribute to better health and wellness outcomes."

In a press conference Monday, officials recognized that preventative care needs to be a greater priority — especially in underserved areas of the city with less access to healthcare resources.

"Residents in these and other areas deserve better physical, mental and financial health," said Ruth Simmons, President of Prairie View A&M University. "And that is what this program is all about."

The program is funded by a $750,000 grant from the Texas A&M University System, which will last one year.

Houston Public Media provided this story.