About 90 family and community health agents of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service gathered at the Hurst Convention Center in Hurst for three days of training on the latest innovations in delivering important healthy-behavior education to Texans.
The Lone Star Health Summit was one of three summits held across the state by AgriLife Extension’s Family and Community Health Program. The program’s offerings like Walk Across Texas, Better Living for Texans SNAP-Education, Learn, Grow, Eat, & Go!, and others reach into most Texas counties, with participant numbers expanding each year.
Regional summits like the one in Hurst provide emerging information to help family and community health agents bolster outreach that improves public health.
Broad range of disciplines
The event welcomed experts to share insights on a wide array of the latest community health topics including vaping trends, passenger and driving safety simulations and communications tips for local program visibility.
Breakout sessions at the summit reviewed broader topics like nutrition for young athletes, the state of obesity in 2020, diabetes trends and ways for agents to build confidence in their roles as community educators.
Attendees could choose sessions from several training tracks tailored to their expertise, their interests and issues facing their own communities.
“They also give us an opportunity to be consistent across the state with the training and information that we are providing,” said Paula Butler, AgriLife Extension’s East Region program leader for family and community health and 4-H youth development, Dallas.
The Hurst summit brought together Central and East Texas agents while other summits welcomed agents from the North, West, South and Southeast regions. The agents hailed from a broad range of disciplines.
“I am a registered dietitian, and for me, it has been really inspiring,” said Joel Redus, AgriLife Extension family and community health agent in Angelina County. “Several dietitians have presented, and it has challenged me to step up my game.”
Health, nutrition and new ideas
A lunch learning session welcomed school wellness consultant Mary Dickson of Lavon for a discussion on the benefits of dairy.
In another session, culinary dietitian Joan Denton of Aledo engaged the agents with a presentation on “culinary medicine.” She provided tips for promoting nutrition through delicious cooking and exposing Texans to new culinary experiences.
The training also included presentations by Jeff Hyde, Ph.D., director of AgriLife Extension; Courtney Dodd, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension associate director for health, families and youth; and Rebecca Seguin-Fowler, Ph.D., associate director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, all from College Station. The agency leaders provided overviews of AgriLife’s intent to employ new technologies and research initiatives to improve public health and youth health.
“The big takeaway was to not just observe what our clients eat and how they exercise, but to take into consideration their total wellbeing,” Redus said.
“I believe it really helps us as professionals to get these new ideas,” said Micah Holcombe, AgriLife Extension family and community health agent in Milam County. “It is also important to find out what resources we have available across our Extension service, so we can use them to improve ourselves and to add new concepts to improve our programs.”
Boosting the network
Meeting rooms buzzed during intermittent breaks, as agents from both regions intermingled. Teamwork and agency branding were a major focus with attendees sporting their AgriLife-maroon apparel. Family and community health agents also showed off their own programs. They shared achievements, obstacles to daily activities and overviews of their current directions with one another.
“We had an excellent summit this week,” said Dana Tarter, AgriLife Extension program leader for family and community health and 4-H youth development in the agency’s Central Region. “Our speakers have provided a lot of background information that will be helpful as our agents go out to their communities and provide critically important health and nutrition education to Texans.”
Story and photos by Patricia Moran, 972-952-9259, firstname.lastname@example.org