One of every four Dallas County residents is physically inactive or overweight. Physical inactivity and overweight are associated with an increased risk of a number of chronic health conditions like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and depression. Studies have shown individuals who are physically active have fewer physician visits, hospitalizations, and medications.
In Dallas County, an estimated 378,000 of individuals receive benefits each month from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), historically known as the food stamp program. Studies have shown individuals who live in poverty (including SNAP recipients) have dietary intakes that are not congruent with current recommendations (i.e. Dietary Guidelines or MyPlate). This audience, like many, may not recognize their risk for foodborne illness. Stretching resources so households don’t run out of food is also a challenge.
In Dallas County, there are three major program efforts implemented to promote a healthy lifestyle for people of all ages.
Walk Across Texas (WAT) is an eight-week fitness and health program that challenges participants to adopt a habit of regular exercise. Research indicates that a walking routine of this duration is more likely to lead to continued moderate exercise, which improves quality of life and reduces the risk of chronic disease (including type 2 diabetes). This program yields public value in the forms of reduced public health-care costs and a healthier, more productive workforce.
Better Living for Texans (BLT) is a cooperative endeavor among Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), and the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) of USDA. A component of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), BLT offers food and nutrition education to SNAP recipients, applicants, and other low-income audiences to help improve their ability to plan and prepare nutritious meals, stretch food dollars, and prepare and store food safely. BLT also incorporates its programs with the Walk Across Texas program to promote physical activity.
Master Wellness Volunteer Program is another emphasis area supporting physical activity programs and general wellness education. Volunteers receive 40 hours of health and nutrition education. They return 40 hours of volunteer service by assisting with and teaching educational programs.
Walk Across Texas (WAT) participation and results:
- 1708 registered walkers including 183 teams (1411 walkers) and 297 individual walkers
- 852 people completed the 8-week program
- During the Walk Across Texas program, these teams and individuals walked 196,720.09 miles.
- If participants continue walking as they did during WAT they have the potential to save a collective over $11 millions in future healthcare costs by avoiding Type 2 diabetes and reducing healthcare costs.
- “I liked tracking my fitness, it makes me more conscience of what I’m eating and when I’m working out.”- WAT participant.
- “I was able to work for a goal with my peers, and family, there where all supportive. I know this was a healthy practice, both mentally and physically. I really enjoyed this.”-WAT participant.
Better Living for Texans (BLT) was implemented by FCS agent, BLT Assistant, and volunteers.
- Approximately 3,000 educational contacts were made
- 205 participants graduated from the BLT Eat Better to Live Better and Back to Basics series.
- Based on 177 pre- and post- surveys completed, over 75% reported intent to practice meal planning, shopping with a list and comparing prices.
- “I have a plan to change my soda drinking habits. Normally I drink one soft drink a day. My goal is to change to drinking no sodas, but to drink green tea or water. It may take a while, but the change will be good for me.” – Nimitz High ESL class student
- “I always looked at the nutrition label, but didn’t know what to actually look for. Now I understand it better and can actually buy healthier foods.” – Irving.net ESL class student
Master Wellness Volunteer Program participation and results:
- 18 volunteers provided health and wellness education. 14 of them were recruited and trained in 2011.
- Over 600 hours of services logged by these volunteers, equivalent to over $13,000 economic value.
- These volunteers taught or assisted with 74 educational sessions such as nutrition and health programs, health fairs, healthy food demonstrations, and 4-H and youth development projects.
- Over 9,000 people were reached through these educational sessions.
- This program has increased outreach efforts, helped reach new audiences, and created advocates for the FCS program.
- “This was my first year as a MWV. I was very impressed with the quality of the materials available on the website and the MWV training instruction. Through some contacts I was able to present the Master of Memory program of six classes to a group of hospital volunteers, which was very well received… On a personal level, I felt that I learned a lot teaching this program and also increased the public awareness of this very important subject.”- Dallas County Master Wellness Volunteer
- “This has been a remarkable experience for me. This program has given me an opportunity to learn and share with a full range of people… I very much appreciate the opportunities and the knowledge participating in the Master Wellness Program has offered me since graduation in March and look forward to the possibilities coming next year. Thank you!”- Dallas County Master Wellness Volunteer
For educational programs related to health and wellness, contact Texas AgriLife Extension Service-Dallas County at 214-904-3050.