AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston are recruiting healthy Hispanic and African American women, ages 25-60, to participate in a free 12-month program aimed at building healthier lifestyles and, in the long-term, building healthier communities and neighborhoods.
The five-year, $3 million project, “Health is Power” (HIP) is funded by The National Institutes for Health and is a partnership of The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture and the University of Houston Department of Health and Human Performance.
“We are recruiting 240 Hispanic volunteers from Austin and 240 African American volunteers from Houston to participate in the program,” said Rebecca Lee, director of the project and faculty member at the University of Houston.
“Volunteers will be randomly divided into two groups. One will spend 12 months increasing their physical activity through walking programs. The other will focus on healthy eating habits by increasing their fruit and vegetable consumption.”
The participants in each group will be divided into teams of four to seven people in hopes of creating social cohesion that will make the program more meaningful to each member. Each team will be asked to create a group identity and set goals each week that all members can work together to attain.
All participants will receive three free health screenings—one at the beginning of the program, one at the end of the program and one six months after completion of the program. During the six-month participation period, one group will attend training sessions on physical activity, while the other group is educated on their dietary habits. The first group will adopt a walking program. The second group will be asked to increase their frequency of eating fruits and vegetables.
Every participant will be given a computer-generated map of the exact location of their house and the neighborhood that surrounds it. The map will be used to identify everything from grocery stores, to bus lines, to schools and sidewalks. With these maps and participant feedback, each neighborhood will be evaluated on its capacity to promote a healthy lifestyle.
The HIP team hopes to achieve two goals with its program.
The first is to educate Hispanic and African American women on the advantages of living a health lifestyle and helping them create a framework to do so.
The second involves a community-wide, long-term goal.
“The University of Houston is key in implementing the program,” said Tracy McMillan, assistant professor in the School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin. “Our faculty and students will use the information gleaned from the maps and participant feedback to provide evidence-based recommendations to policy leaders, scientists and the general public about building neighborhoods that promote a healthy lifestyle.
“Transportation, design and location of schools, grocery stories and restaurants all play a role in creating healthy environments to live in. We want to understand that role better and help community planners to do so.”
The first session for volunteers is June 1. For information about volunteering for the program, contact Marcella Brosnan in Austin at 512-232-2623 or Jacqueline Reese-Smith in Houston at 713-743-1183.
For more information contact: Amy M. Crossette, School of Architecture, 512-573-1078.