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Dell Medical School Supports Community Health Ideas, and It Calls for More

Dell Medical School is actively developing 10 ideas submitted by members of the community to improve health locally. Now, it’s asking for more.

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AUSTIN, Texas — A food truck that teaches nutrition to its customers … Programs that improve dental care in senior living centers … Homelessness training for social workers, medical professionals and law enforcement …

During the past year, the Dell Medical School has received nearly 100 ideas to improve health in communities. The school is actively developing 10 of those ideas to improve health on a community-wide scale.

Now, the school is asking for more.

Today, the Center for Place-Based Initiatives, an innovative program of the Department of Population Health in the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin, issued its second Call for Ideas — inviting people from every part of the community to offer ideas for improving health in tangible ways.

Read more about the first Call for Ideas >

The ideas can — and should — come from parents, children and seniors, nonprofits and laborers, innovators and organizers, and anyone else who has a notion of ways to improve health in a community.

“A community’s biggest untapped health resource is the community itself,” said Lourdes J. Rodríguez, who directs the Center for Place-Based Initiatives. “Our mission is to listen attentively to people who submit ideas and leverage their insight and creativity in ways that everyone will benefit from.”

The current Call for Ideas will run from today until Oct. 27. Residents can submit them online at dellmed.utexas.edu/idea (including on mobile devices) or in-person at Dell Med’s Health Discovery Building (HDB), located at 1701 Trinity St. — paper forms are available and can be dropped off in the HDB lobby, emailed to CPBI@dellmed.utexas.edu, faxed to 512-471-8299 (Attn: Call for Ideas), or mailed to the Department of Population Health, Dell Medical School Health Discovery Building, 1701 Trinity St. Stop Z0500, Austin, TX, 78712-1872. The center can be reached by phone at 512-495-5311.

The center responds to every person who submits an idea. In most cases, originators are connected with other community resources who can help support or implement ideas in ways that improve health.

The center itself is actively supporting 10 of the ideas that have the greatest potential for real impact and that align to Dell Med’s mission and resources. Rodríguez and her team target solutions that can be scaled to serve other communities and larger populations.

Dell Med showcased some of those ideas at an open house Monday at Bluebonnet Studios, a complex of efficiency apartments developed on South Lamar Boulevard by Foundation Communities, a home-grown nonprofit that develops affordable, attractive housing projects and has participated in the Call for Ideas.

Several idea originators attended the open house and discussed ideas they submitted, including:

  • A mobile teaching kitchen and food truck that meets people in their communities and provides nutritional education and cooking instructions.
  • A homeless health equity curriculum to educate social workers, medical professionals, law enforcement officers and others about the unique needs of people experiencing homelessness.
  • A soccer-focused program to expand access to the sport in parks — helping residents with league fees and uniforms, as well as teams that want to develop programming with basic equipment.
  • An institute for health and healing that uses methods and traditions of indigenous cultures, helping to fill a gap for a population that can face unique problems accessing the health care system.
  • Efforts to increase the amount of time children in targeted neighborhoods spend in nature through Blair Woods, a 10-acre sanctuary in East Austin managed by the Travis Audubon Society.
  • A program to cover oral health services for Austin-area seniors who lack access to dental care.

“This is a really important program for Dell Med, and we hope to expand it in the future,” said Dr. Clay Johnston, dean of the medical school. “It is a core mechanism of how we hope to change the culture of health so that communities can rise up to find their own solutions.”

Gabe Hernandez is a chef, caterer and aspiring entrepreneur who aims to bring affordable, healthy food to underserved communities in Austin; he proposed the mobile teaching kitchen idea that Dell Med is supporting. He plans to spend the next year growing the teaching kitchen through relationships with area high schools and local vendors and partnerships with Dell Med, the FuseBox Festival and the Design Institute for Health, a collaboration between Dell Med and the UT College of Fine Arts.

“For me, the Call for Ideas was a way to improve health, strengthen community and end long established cycles of disenfranchisement and isolation in Austin,” Hernandez said. “It’s an incredible opportunity to expand my mission and grow my project.”

Dell Med created the Center for Place-Based Initiatives through a grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.