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Overview of Data Collected on Medical Mission Trips to the TX Big Bend Region by Frontera de Salud

Connor Johnson, Michael Phan, Dr. Norma Perez, Christina Davis

University of Texas Medical Branch


Introduction: The rural Texas towns of Alpine, Marfa, Presidio, and Candelaria are all part of a medically underserved area spanning the entire 12,313 square mile Big Bend region. To maximize the use of the region’s limited healthcare resources, it is important to develop targeted interventions based on regionally-collected health data. Each year, Frontera de Salud sends an interdisciplinary team of students to travel to these towns and administer healthcare while gathering data to develop a better understanding of the specific needs of these communities. Over its last two trips, Frontera de Salud has collected health data on 82 patients that will be used to implement new preventative healthcare interventions for the Big Bend region.

Methods: Data was collected on patients seen during Frontera de Salud’s yearly medical mission trips to Big Bend and analyzed as part of an empirical study to gain an in-depth understanding of the region’s health status. With the help of students on the trip, volunteered participants responded to paper surveys that recorded their sex, height, weight, smoking status, chief complaint, blood pressure, blood glucose, body mass index (BMI), and medical history.

Results: Over the past three trips, data was collected on 82 patients. For the data that was reported, 69.8% were female and 27.0% were smokers. Of the patients whose blood pressure was measured, 51.3% of patients were either hypertensive or reported a past medical history of hypertension. For patients whose BMI was recorded, 2.9% were in the underweight range, 38.2% were in the average range, and 58.8% were obese or overweight.

Conclusion: The population seen during Frontera de Salud’s yearly mission trip have a markedly increased rate of hypertension when compared to the general population of the United States. Additionally, this group had a large percentage of individuals who were overweight/obese and an increased percentage of smokers compared to the general United States population. The health data gathered from these surveys will be used to guide future trips and create possible interventions such as preventative health workshops, nutritional education, and smoking cessation programs. Additionally, adding new data categories such as race, ethnicity, rehabilitative history, and poverty level to the surveys could help generate a more holistic understanding of health status of the Big Bend region.

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