Laredo Health Department will receive $125,000 to monitor health factors

Rep. Henry Cuellar will hold a press conference Tuesday to officially announce $125,000 in federal funding for the Laredo Department of Health as part of its focus on the social determinants of health in the community.

A media advisory says the Department of Health will use the funds to develop a plan for the city to address the social determinants of health. This will include a focus on disease prevention, education, disease management and social connection.

Laredo has been considered medically underserved for decades and with the pandemic highlighting the issues, some steps have been taken to remedy the situation. Earlier this year, the city hired a consulting service to help find solutions to the health care needs of the community.

Some issues include the difficulty of retaining healthcare personnel and the high number of uninsured residents in the community. Funding the health department using federal funds can help develop a stronger city response in the immediate and distant future.

The release adds that the goal is for the Laredo Health Department to strengthen existing cross-sector partnerships to improve mental and physical health outcomes for individuals in Webb County and Laredo, Texas.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health. They state that mental illnesses are among the most common health problems in the United States, with more than 50% of American residents expected to be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lives.

Additionally, 1 in 25 US residents lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. An example given is the effect of stress on the mind and body which can increase health risks.

“For example, depression increases the risk of many types of physical health problems, especially long-lasting conditions like Diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Likewise, the presence of chronic illnesses can increase the risk of mental illness,” the CDC states.

To help residents, the city’s health department has its Good Life-Buena Vida program, which focuses on early detection of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and other chronic illnesses to help prevent future complications and lead a healthier life.

This is compounded by the department’s Healthy Living-Viviendo Mejor program which helps residents learn about illnesses and self-management. The program provides free access to a certified, evidence-based program developed by the University of Illinois at Chicago, known as the Diabetes Empowerment Education Program.

Topics covered include:

  • Understand the human body.
  • Understand diabetes and its risk factors.
  • Monitoring your body.
  • Health management through meal planning.
  • Diabetes and physical activity.
  • Complications, identification and prevention of diabetes.
  • Learn more about drugs and medical care.
  • Living with diabetes by engaging family and friends.

In the county, in 2021, a Webb County Clinic was opened for employees and their dependents, which would be an affordable option to avoid costly visits to hospitals and clinics for minor issues. Beyond that, county employees had a dedicated and accessible COVID testing site, physical exams, flu shots, diabetes check-up and more for free. The services have no disbursements to employees or their families.

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