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Nursing students assess health of Longview neighborhoods

By Reese Gordon rgordon@news-journal.com
Jan. 15, 2014 at 11 p.m.

Senior nursing students at the UT Tyler Longview University Center stepped into the Longview community Wednesday to assess its overall health.

Students in Katherine Strout's community health course drove through neighborhoods and city parks to get a better idea of how to tailor health care to patients based on geography, transportation method and housing as part of a windshield survey. A windshield survey involves making direct observations about a neighborhood while looking through a car windshield.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2008 started to look at how "outside" factors impact community health, Strout said.

"Community health is a legitimate component of community assessment," she said. "Our nursing students need to know what questions to ask."

Shari McCary, Morgan Galyean and Alyssa Adkinson were tasked with exploring the residential areas between Judson Road and McCann Street.

McCary, a lab technician at Good Shepherd Medical Center, said the survey involved thinking about health care outside of the hospital.

"It's another part of health care that is outside of acute care," she said. "Most people think of acute care as hospital care. But one of the greater aspects of the health care mission from a national level is moving more toward preventative care."

The women made a stop at Skinner's Grocery and Market on Judson Road to get a better look at the food and supplies residents can access.

"We wanted to compare the prices to a place like Wal-Mart and see if the prices are different," Adkinson said. "And how much could a person carry if they had to walk here."

Not all Longview residents have a grocery store or market with fresh produce within walking distance of their homes, McCary said.

"On the south side of Longview, you might be lucky to have a Dollar General," she said. "Are they going to have fresh produce? No, they're not."

Strout said it makes a huge difference in the overall health of a community if people have access to a regular supermarket.

Impoverished areas often offer little in the form of nutrition, she said.

"We have lots of people living in Longview who live in food deserts," she said. "Their only option is to get their food from the corner store or the gas station. It makes a huge difference if that same person who has to shop at the corner store has diabetes or hypertension. The food is all processed, very expensive, and you don't have fresh fruits and vegetables."

To improve the overall health of impoverished communities, Strout said she would like to see if it is possible to cultivate fresh fruits and vegetables in green spaces.



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