Webcast: Bexar County Community Health Assessment

The Bexar County Community Health Collaborative released its 2010 health portrait, highlighting concerns about the area's obesity epidemic, teen pregnancy and the continuing stigma around mental health issues.

The report, available here on the Health Collaborative site, profiles the health of the community, looking at behaviors that affect health and examining what leads to that behavior. It is the topic of a community leaders breakfast Wednesday morning, featuring Health Collaborative board members and community leaders. You can watch the video here:

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According to its mission, the collaborative gathers a community-wide assessment study every four years "to guide the community health strategic planning process."

The group, which focuses on improving the community's health status through collaboration, includes Baptist Health System, Bexar County Department of Community Resources, Community First Health Plans, Methodist Healthcare Ministries, Methodist Heathcare System, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District (Metro Health). University Health System, WellMed Medical Management, the YMCA of Greater San Antonio and community member Steve Blanchard. The report was submitted by Health Resources in Action.

In his comments to the 250-person event, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said a lot could be done to turn San Antonio’s unhealthy picture around, including introducing new programs at government-run clinics that center on prevention.

“If we really wanted to become radical, if someone comes to your clinic and is a smoker and is overweight … we say you’re not eligible for treatment unless you sign a pledge,” said Wolff, adding that could include enrolling in a non-smoking program and having receipts from restaurants that showed vegetables were eaten.

“We simply have to get much tougher in our clinics,” said Wolff.

Wolff, former owner of the Sun-Harvest natural food grocery chain in San Antonio, put a lot of the blame on government policy that subsidizes corn used as filler in many foods.
“We’ve downed the cost (of food) with cheap calories,” he said. “Now everybody can eat a lot, but we give them the cheapest food.”

Under the auspices of our parent organization, CI:NOW, and in collaboration with our sister entity, NOW:Data, and the Health Collaborative, NOWCastSA partnered with the collaborative to help connect people in the community with health information in two extraordinary public meetings.

On May 5, NOWCastSA broadcast live from the Benavides Learning & Leadership Development Center on San Antonio's West Side to expand an important neighbor-to-neighbor conversation about people's health.

Event organizers shared maps of health data and other health information with the neighbors, hoping to spark conversations that will lead to better health for the people of San Antonio.

NOWCastSA streamed live video from the meeting. We've archived video segments of the evening conversation here.

In a second meeting organized by the Health Collaborative, this time at the Claude Black Community Center in October, neighbors formed small discussion groups to focus on matters close to their hearts, sharing them with health care advocates in the hopes to bring about change.

NOWCastSA streamed live video of the event here.

Drawing on people from the community, NOWCastSA launched a "health periodista" program, training 35 people to tell the stories behind the obesity numbers.

We went to the Good Samaritan Center on San Antonio's West Side and talked to the Modelos -- the best high school students who are about to be the first ones in their family to enter college.

We went to the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center and talked to the women whose life experience spans generations on San Antonio's West Side.

We went to the Benavides Learning and Leadership Development Center on Castroville Road, one of the city's great community hubs, where people learn English as a Second Language and where a dedicated crew come daily to earn their G.E.D., the equivalent of a high school diploma.

We gave people the tools, the cameras and the training so they could become health periodistas - our new media journalists - so they could tell the street-level story of what needs fixing and how we can improve. Here is the package of stories they produced.

(Susana Hayward contributed to this report)

Disclosure: Key individuals involved with the Health Collaborative also serve on NOWCastSA's board of directors: Pilar Oates, Executive Director of Methodist Healthcare Ministries, Stephen K. Blanchard, PhD, who currently teaches in the Sociology Department of Our Lady of the Lake University and Charles Pruski, Interim Deputy Director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.