Innovative program brings health education to the public
Contact: Christy Mendoza, intern/writer (956) 665-2741
Posted: 01/24/2013
Share |

The University of Texas-Pan American's College of Health Sciences and Human Services (CHSHS) is taking community engagement a step further and branching out to one of the Rio Grande Valley's most popular venues-the "pulga."

CHEP team members (left to right) Lily Ramirez, Dr. Shawn Saladin and Leila Flores are pictured assisting a patron with health questions and information during a recent flea market outreach event. The CHEP team will man a booth at the Alamo flea market on Jan. 27.
The Community Health Education/Promotion (CHEP) team, spearheaded by the CHSHS, distributes health education and promotion information at area flea markets- otherwise known in the RGV as the pulgas-and other public gatherings.

"The goal for CHEP is to reach large groups of people who typically may not have access to information regarding diabetes, obesity, and other health problems predominately affecting the RGV community," said Dr. John Ronnau, dean of the CHSHS. "I think people are very pleased to see UTPA have a presence within the community and doing what a college should be doing by getting more engaged. We are committed to our community responsibility."

The CHEP team hands out information printed in English and Spanish, answers questions, and provides referrals, along with blood pressure checks and other health screenings when available. Launched in Fall 2012, the CHEP team initially set up a booth at the Alamo flea market and since then has attended various flea markets and health events in Alton, Donna, Mission, and the Sharyland Independent School District.

Leila Flores, UTPA doctoral student in rehabilitation counseling and CHEP director, said there has been an overwhelming community response.

"The feedback has been very positive and the information well received," she said. "Everywhere people share how there is such a need for this type of information. Many of them mention they have not previously received this type of information due to busy doctors or insufficient health care and they discuss their plans to share the information with family and friends."

The CHEP team consists of students and faculty advisors from all disciplines of the college who are dedicated to making UTPA more engaged with the community.

"It is important for the community to see UTPA not as a separate entity but rather as a committed institution, providing information and solutions for their health concerns," Flores said.

At their flea market booth, UTPA's CHEP team distributes health information in both English and Spanish regarding diabetes, nutrition, and other health-related topics to pulga visitors.
Dr. Shawn Saladin, associate dean of CHSHS and director of the Valley-ICAN program at UTPA, said he is optimistic about student involvement and the projected future of CHEP.

"There are already several students from the Valley-ICAN program directly involved with CHEP," he said.

Valley I-CAN, which stands for Valley Independent Confident Activities Network, prepares UTPA students with a concentration in deaf rehabilitation the opportunity to become professional consultants to deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals seeking full inclusion into the community.

"CHEP provides the opportunity for capstone students to gain service hours while sharing the knowledge they have acquired from their respective programs and in turn, be able to serve their communities. Ideally, we hope to increase the number of students involved," Saladin said. "In the future, the College of Health Sciences and Human Services would have the opportunity to branch out, further cooperate with the South Texas Border Health Disparities Center and the Border Health Office, and include all disciplines and programs in the college and their student organizations."

Ronnau said he expects the college to establish a weekly presence in the community, conduct research to obtain input from Valley residents, and identify what potential solutions can be offered.

The CHEP team will attend the Alamo flea market on Sunday, Jan. 27, from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. To participate, or for more information, contact Flores at the department of rehabilitation services (956)665-7036 or email