‘Holes in the fence’ seems to be an appropriate metaphor for a few of the observations I have had during my Texas field experience. Both literally and figuratively.
The differences or disparities, both health and otherwise, that are present in the communities in which we have worked here in southern Texas, are quite evident. Some of the disparities that I noticed were: access to health care, affordability of insurance, access to health food, access to health education, place to go outside to be active, and public transportation.
There are many ‘holes in the fence’ or gaps in access to health care and health knowledge, which could, and have the potential to be, completely preventable, like actual fence holes. If access and quality of health education delivery and resources was built up to be strong, resilient, durable and each link helping to hold up the next, the health of community could so much stronger.
The most significant ‘holes’ that I noticed surrounded the food options available. I have never in my life, in a big city or near a small town, seen so many unhealthy fast food choices. The amount of fast food restaurants available on each mile of road is staggering. It seems like there are at least 4 on every city corner. Not only are the options plentiful, but the menus feature nearly 0 remotely healthy options. The serving sizes are staggering (see above), and many restaurants don’t even offer patrons water unless requested. A local person I spoke with, who had recently moved back to this area after years away living in Illinois, told me how she couldn’t believe all the unhealthy options here. She said where she lived in Illinois seemed to have less fast food restaurants, as well as “a ton” more healthy options. She stated, “it is no wonder people gained weight, and experienced illness related to their weight, the search for a healthy option is too hard here”.
Access to education, health resources and healthy foods is imperative to improving the health of the people of this area (Cameron county), where 1 in 3 people is obese, and 80% of residents are either overweight or obese.
Fueling the body with knowledge, instead of unhealthy foods, is the key to a healthier and stronger future for the wonderful, generous, and hardworking people of this area. They deserve this opportunity.