I am not sure if I can say I have ever been more productive in a matter of five days than I was this past week in South Texas with PHAST. At times my colleague, navigator and fellow adventurer, Mava, and I thought we wouldn’t finish but we made it and had a great time doing so. Looking back on this experience everything is a bit of a whirlwind! I am someone who likes to make lists and gets a lot of enjoyment from crossing items off those lists and seeing what I have accomplished in a day. Since I didn’t think I would be able to fit everything great about Texas in one blog post I thought, hey, how about I make a list to really appreciate all that my teammates and I accomplished and to allow myself to reflect on this unique and invaluable experience. So here it goes…
- Added another state to the list of states I’ve visited (I’m hoping to set foot in every state eventually and am on my way at about 30 states!)
- Mava and I helped produce a video with the UT Brownsville media team (Julio and Ernie) that highlighted the incredible work being done by the city of Los Fresnos.
- Conducted a content analysis of all of the 2014 newsletters and newspaper articles that were a part of the Tu Salud ¡Si Cuenta! campaign. During these process, we applied theoretical constructs we learned during the core Health Behavior and Health Education course. This was a great example of classroom to practice application!
- Completed a structured observation of a local park that had built exercise stations as one strategy to promote and support healthy and active life cycles in Harlingen.
- Learned about CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) and visited one of the first schools in the area to implement this program.
- Visited the Gateway International Bridge and saw the border wall. We were lucky enough to speak with an officer who filled us in on everything we ought to know about the bridge.
- Listened to some great classic country music and even squeezed in some line dancing!
- Had some of the best Mexican food I have had in a long time. Really hit the spot!
- Jumped into the Gulf of Mexico on South Padre Island, even though it may have been cold and foggy…
- Toured around Brownsville and Los Fresnos, learning about their histories and public health efforts.
- Briefly visited Little Graceland after attending a Zumba class!
- Saw some great examples of public health practice including community gardens and bike/hike trails to make the city more walkable. These features provide the opportunity for community members to eat healthier and engage in a more active lifestyle.
- Experienced the importance of partnerships in implementing sustainable and effective programs/initiatives.
- Learned that not everyone knows what “gluten free” means and that eating out can be challenging for a celiac.
- Learned how to correctly pronounce “promotoras” (similar to a community health worker) and learned about their roles in the community.
- Made some incredible friends and memories.
This list could have gone on for much longer, but for the sake of time I’m going to end it there. Although many people we worked with were surprised to hear that we chose to work over our spring break, I would not trade this experience for anything else and we did manage to have some spring break fun. We may have made the trip to Texas to put our classroom knowledge into practice, but we returned to (sunny!) Michigan with new friends, new skills, and a new understanding of ourselves as public health practitioners. I may not have had the Friday Night Lights football Texas experience, but from my time spent in South Texas, it was evident that with clear eyes and full hearts that we really can make a difference and work to improve population health.