AgriLife extending services to help prevent chronic illnesses

AgriLife extending services to help prevent chronic illnesses
Health care tool inside a doctors office; Source: KFDA
Doctors getting ready to perform surgery; Source: CBS
Doctors getting ready to perform surgery; Source: CBS
The top 3 leading causes of death in Texas; Source: KFDA
The top 3 leading causes of death in Texas; Source: KFDA

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - AgriLife is extending their family and community outreach programs by tackling the prevention of chronic illnesses.

"We re-branded, and renamed our county extension agents for family and community health," said AgriLife State Program Leader for Family and Community Health Angela Burkham.

AgriLife understands that every illness is not cookie cutter. They are dedicated to making sure each community gets the exact help that is needed.

"We know what the state and national trends and data say," said Burkham. "We take [the data], but then we assemble a local group of people to help determine the specific audience needs and delivers, and what's going to be most effective in that community. We know all communities are not the same."

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The leading three causes of death in Texas are: cancer, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

AgriLife Extension Program Specialist for Health Miquela Smith knows most diseases are in some way preventable.

"Most of the chronic diseases are influenced by the same behavioral factors," said Smith. "So we're really going to be trying to target those behavioral factors, those lifestyle factors that increase or decrease risk for all chronic diseases."

AgriLife is hoping the new specialty will take them to places and meet people they haven't reached before.

"We want to broaden our reach," said Smith. "These programs are already being implemented in the counties in the Panhandle by our county extension agents. But we really want to broaden our reach, to [get to] places we have not been before."

Smith says rural areas will be a huge focus.

"If you're living in a rural community, you don't really have as much access to a primary care physician," said Smith. "[That means] you might not be getting screened as earlier as you could, or maybe as somebody in an urban area would be screened. So these programs are really trying to reach people who don't necessarily get healthcare, or don't access health care services as much because they live far away, or they are not insured."

Smith hopes to help extension agents better educate the community about proper prevention techniques.

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