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Archive for the ‘SCR Regional Highlight’ Category

SCR Regional Highlight: Texas Colonias See Increased Health Problems

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

Colonias. If you’re from a border state, you may be quite familiar with this word, as it is generally used to describe unsanitary or unsafe housing located along the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

In Texas, colonias date back to at least the 1950s; developed as unincorporated subdivisions because the land was agriculturally worthless, they were sold at very low prices to low-income individuals. According to the Texas Secretary of State, colonias are defined as a residential area along the Mexico-Texas border which lacks basic necessities, like potable water, sewer systems, electricity, paved roads and simply safe and sanitary housing.

As one may assume by this definition, the health of many of the nearly 500,000 colonia residents is poor.

According to a New York Times article, in the highest health risk colonias water- and mosquito-borne illnesses are rampant due to no sewer system or wastewater disposal. There are high rates of asthma, rashes and lice infestations because of the burning garbage, mold and large amount of cockroaches and rodents. But still, there are more health ailments.

Because they have poor diets, as many people in poverty do, they have poor dental hygiene, diabetes, and other diseases. But what’s worse is most of these residents have no means to help themselves. There is no easy solution of going to the doctor. With many without health insurance and little access to healthcare clinics, they have no way to receive treatment.

Thankfully, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. More rural healthcare clinics are opening to fulfill this need that is so desperately needed for colonias. Like the University of Texas recently opened a new campus—University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, which currently has its inaugural class. This new medical school will not only bring in medical students from around the country but will also allow students to serve the population they grew up in.

To read more about Texas colonias, please visit the following resources:

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SCR Regional Highlight: Stay Healthy This Holiday Season by Remaining Active at Holiday Outings!

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

Photos by NM BioPark Society.

River of Lights - Holiday Light Show

Stay Healthy This Holiday Season by Remaining Active at Holiday Outings!

With the holidays quickly approaching, many of us may be dreaming of family gatherings with big family dinners to follow. And while it’s always nice to indulge every once in a while, you should also remember to remain physically active—even during the holidays!

Remaining active doesn’t have to mean leaving your loved ones to head to the gym though, there are many festive activities that will keep you in the holiday spirit, surrounded by family while still being active.

One event is the River of Lights—Holiday Light Show at the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden in Albuquerque, the largest walk-through holiday production in New Mexico! It is open from 6 to 9:30 p.m. through Dec. 23, and then again from Dec. 26 through Dec. 30. This year is the 20th Annual River of Lights and features new sculptures, and a new light show set to a variety of classic and contemporary holiday music favorites.

Walking daily has many benefits. Just like any aerobic activity, it reduces your risk of early death, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and depression. Additionally, walking an hour per day can lower your risk of some types of cancer! Perhaps even after the holidays you’ll consider a daily walk as part of your exercise routine!

For more tips on how to stay active and healthy during the holiday season, please see 12 Ways to Have a Health Holiday Season from the CDC.

To learn more about the River of Lights, please visit the City of Albuquerque’s website.

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Written by Sara Goodwin, NN/LM SCR

SCR Regional Highlight: Arkansas Offers Abundance of Healthy Outdoor Activities

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

“The Old Mill – North Little Rock, AR” by
Richard Walker is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

The Old Mill - North Little Rock, AR

As many people know, every state within the U.S. has a nickname. California is the Golden State, Texas is the Lone Star State, and Florida is the Sunshine State. But what is Arkansas? Arkansas has been nicknamed the Natural State. Does it seem odd? It shouldn’t.

Arkansas was nicknamed the Natural State because it is famous for its natural scenic beauties. Arkansas is home to 52 state parks, three national forests, five national parks, 250 parks and recreation trails, and the U.S.’s first national river. Arkansas is just as good a place as any, if not the perfect place, to get active and remain healthy while also enjoying the outdoors.

If you live in central Arkansas, be sure to check out the Arkansas River Trail, which spans an 88-mile loop through Little Rock, North Little Rock, Maumelle, and Conway. With a primarily flat terrain, it’s an easy trail for people of all ages and fitness levels. Not only is it great for getting some physical activity, but the trail connects 38 parks and six museums, so if you’re hiking, biking, skating or walking, you can make a stop along the way for another activity.

Residents of the eastern side of the state have quick access to the Bayou De View, which flows across the Arkansas Delta and eventually makes its way to the Mississippi River. The Bayou De View is a perfect place to relax and enjoy the nature around you. You may even be able to spot the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, often called “The Lord God Bird” because of its size, beauty and majesty.

In the western part of the state, Eureka Springs is nestled in the northwest corner in the Ozark valley, and is nicknamed “Little Switzerland of the Ozarks” for its Victorian-esque architecture.  The Ozarks are a perfect place for hiking and Eureka Springs has many parks and trails for the active recreationist.  It is also home of the basin springs, rumored to have healing powers for those in need of a little rejuvenation.

No matter where you are, there are always recreational activities to keep you healthy and active. Visit Go4Life from the National Institute on Aging at NIH to learn more on how to fit exercise and physical activity into your daily life.

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Written by Sara Goodwin, NN/LM SCR

SCR Regional Highlight: New Medical School in the Rio Grande Valley Will Help Address Physician Shortage

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy

UTRGV Family Medicine Center

The Rio Grande Valley, made up of four counties in the southernmost part of Texas along the border of Mexico, has the odds stacked against it when it comes to residents’ health. In Hidalgo County, one of those four counties, 40 percent of residents lack proper health insurance, 40 percent are considered obese, and 25 percent suffer from diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, most often found in adults, is being found more often in children in this area.

Luckily though, it looks like the Rio Grande Valley has a happy ending.

On June 27, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine opened its doors to its inaugural class. This first cohort contains 55 students—out of the more than 2,784 that applied. UTRGV is the first of its kind in the Valley, but the necessity it provides has been a long time coming.

In 2013, there were only 165 doctors per 100,000 people in Texas—much lower than the average of 240 doctors per 100,000 people in the U.S. as a whole. But in the Rio Grande Valley, that number was even smaller with only 124 doctors per 100,000 people. Number of doctors wasn’t the only shortcoming the Valley had; its average physician age was 57, decades above the median population age, and with older physicians, that would mean more retirements, and it would be likely the number of doctors would dwindle even further.

The inauguration of UTRGV is a fresh start for the Valley, who often lost many of its youngest, brightest minds to other medical schools without the thought of returning. The new medical school will bring new students in and keep students here to serve the population they also grew up in.

To read more about health in the Rio Grande Valley or UTRGV, please visit the following:

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SCR Regional Highlight: Oklahoma Has Largest Earthquake on Record and New Fault Line is Discovered, All Within Two Weeks

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

“Earthquake!” by
Richard Walker is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Earthquake

On Saturday, Sept. 3, Oklahoma experienced a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, its largest temblor on record. And since then Oklahoma has experienced more than 10 others. Since 2011, the number of earthquakes has increased by 5,000 percent.

Is this normal for Oklahoma? Well, it’s becoming so. In fact, Oklahoma is becoming as prone to earthquakes as California–in 2014, Oklahoma displaced California as second with most earthquakes in a year to Alaska.

But now the question is why? Why are parts of Oklahoma getting more earthquakes? Contrary to popular belief and rumors, it is not fracking. Not exactly, at least. It is wastewater disposal wells, wells that inject fluid deep underground in rock formations of sandstone or limestone.

So what is fracking and what is wastewater? Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) is a method of extracting natural gas, which can be manufactured into a fuel source, by pumping more than a million gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure, cracking the rock layer and releasing the gas. Afterwards, all the water, sand and chemicals pumped underground have be to removed, creating wastewater, which is then injected back underground into a wastewater disposal well.

So why are wastewater disposal wells suspected of inducing earthquakes? Because wastewater is being pumped into untouched rock which creates a higher pressure underground, increasing the likelihood of induced earthquakes. As of 2015, there were nearly 3,200 active disposal wells in Oklahoma. Immediately following the Sept. 3 earthquake, officials took to shut down 67 of the wells in 1,100 square miles.

But the latest discovery? A new fault line, an area where there has been significant displacement of rock underground, and when energy is released, causes earthquakes. Upon discovery, officials ordered 32 more wells to be shut down, as they were deemed too close to the fault line.

To read more about Oklahoma and its earthquakes, please visit earthquakes.ok.gov.

To learn about health issues related to earthquakes, please visit the Disaster Information Management Research Center website.

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Written by Sara Goodwin, NN/LM SCR

SCR Regional Highlight: America’s First “Climate Refugees”

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

“Isle De Jean Charles” by Karen Apricot
is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Isle De Jean Charles - Blue House

Isle de Jean Charles is a tiny, narrow island deep in the bayous of Louisiana. The single-lane “Island Road” is the only land method of transportation to and from the island but is often impassible during times of high water. It has been the home to the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians for more than 170 years—but not for much longer.

Coastal erosion, severe storms, rising sea levels, and poor oil extraction practices have caused the island to literally sink into the Gulf of Mexico. Current island residents remember when Isle de Jean Charles was 5 miles wide. But with 98 percent of it lost since 1955, the island is now only a mere 1/4 mile in width. Southern Louisiana as a whole, actually, is the fastest disappearing landmass on earth.

Edison Dardar, one of the current residents, explains in The New York Times’ mini-documentary “Vanishing Island” that he remembers when there were 250, maybe even 300 homes, on the island years ago. Since the hurricanes have scared most families off, there are now maybe 20 left. Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike severely damaged the infrastructure of the island causing many families to flee.

Since 2010, Chief Albert Naquin and tribal leaders, realizing the island they and their ancestors have called home for almost two centuries won’t be around for much longer, have been trying to create a solution by finding a way to relocate the remaining 77 residents. After working with the Lowlander Center for more than five years, they finally received some good news.

In January, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it would grant more than $1 billion in total to 13 communities who have been impacted by major disasters between 2011 and 2013 through the Housing and Urban Development’s National Disaster Resilience Competition Grant. The grant to assist the community of the Isle de Jean Charles is something new, however. Never before have federal tax dollars been used to relocate an entire community struggling with the effects of climate change. This is a big step for Naquin and island residents — the grant allocates more than $92 million to the state of Louisiana to be split between one other project, the Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments Program.

“Isle De Jean Charles” by Karen Apricot
is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Isle De Jean Charles - Ruined House

Now Naquin and tribal leaders face a new challenge, relocating those residents who still want to stay. Isle de Jean Charles residents have varying views when it comes to resettlement. Some are excited to leave the disappearing island behind; others are afraid they will lose their culture if they move away. While the exact path of resettlement for Isle de Jean Charles is still uncertain, the tribe could relocate as early as 2019.

It’s also important to note that Isle de Jean Charles is not the only community dealing with the consequences of climate change; The New York Times reported that 50 million to 200 million people could be displaced because of climate change by 2050. While Isle de Jean Charles residents may be the first climate refugees, they certainly will not be the last.

To learn more about the Island’s history, visit isledejeancharles.com.

Watch the mini-documentary “Vanishing Island” produced by The New York Times.

To learn more about the Housing and Urban Development’s National Disaster Resilience Competition Grant, please visit hud.gov.

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Written by Sara Goodwin, NN/LM SCR