The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has released a report on local contributions to the Arizona State “Fight the Bite!” Campaign. SEAHEC, a key partner, oversaw data collection throughout the 2016-17 school year that will help guide the State’s efforts to restrict the spread of mosquito borne illness. The report notes that while 70% of residents surveyed in the Nogales, Rio Rico area are aware of the problem, only a little over half consider themselves at risk, indicating there is work to do in spreading the word about prevention of mosquito borne illness.

SEAHEC is collaborating with Santa Cruz County Health Department, and ADHS Border Infectious Disease Surveillance Program (BIDS) to stem the rising tide of mosquito borne illness in southern Arizona. Throughout the 2016-2017 academic year, SEAHEC organized groups of high school and college students to conduct surveys in the community. The results of a survey conducted by two college level border service learning groups at SEAHEC were recently published by the Arizona Department of Health Services  Office of Border Health in a paper entitled “General Knowledge of Mosquito-Borne Diseases Survey Nogales AZ, 2017.” (link) The students also provided public health education on how to prevent the spread of mosquito borne diseases.

Data for the recent study was collected by SEAHEC student volunteers during two border health learning events hosted by SEAHEC in the summer of 2017. The students administered 231 surveys, which were designed by the BIDS program in cooperation with Santa Cruz County, to gather demographic data and gauge local knowledge about and attitudes toward mosquito borne viruses and their impact on health.

The students came from two programs SEAHEC hosts in collaboration with the University of Arizona. Students from the Focusing Research on the Border Area (FRONTERA) group administered the survey in June 2017, and the Border Latino and American Indian Summer Exposure to Research (BLAISER) group administered the survey in August 2017. They canvassed five neighborhoods in the Nogales-Rio Rico area as well as one supermarket in the area.

“This survey was a combined effort between Santa Cruz county, SEAHEC and BIDS program. It couldn’t be done without the excellent coordination and collaboration of our agencies,” said Border Infectious Disease Surveillance Officer Mariana Casal, MD, MPH, MBA who explained that the next step will include comparing survey responses of three studies, two of which were conducted in Nogales, and one conducted in Yuma.

The study is just one example of how powerful collaboration can be in improving public health outcomes. One of SEAHEC’s key strategies for building southeast Arizona’s work force is to collaborate with community partners on addressing local public health issues. The engine that drives this work is fueled by high school and college student participation. In SEAHEC’s hands, the combination of collaboration and student participation in addressing local public health issues becomes a powerful teaching tool for training future health care providers and an equally powerful impulse for positive change. The students acquire hands-on experience in public health and an orientation to life and service delivery in rural border communities. The experience is eye opening for many students, some of whom have never considered pursuing practice in a rural area. At the same time, the relationships created through collaborating on public health projects creates a foundation for infrastructure development in rural areas that lack access to resources urban areas take for granted.

As well as collaborating with state and local governments, SEAHEC has lead a variety of collaborations that go beyond local workforce development, forging a network of resources and expertise to address issues that include access to health insurance, access to health information and services through increased utilization of community health workers, a model for unincorporated border communities to use in harnessing resources for public health infrastructure, and cross border initiatives to break down barriers that hamper healthcare providers’ efforts to provide health information and quality care across borders.

For information about the results of the study, download the report here: DOWNLOAD

SEAHEC’s Health Professions Student Training Opportunities Program places medical, nursing, pharmacy, and public health students in clinical and community rotations and internships, enabling them to complete academic requirements while improving cultural competency. For more information about SEAHEC’s Student Training Opportunities, contact Program Coordinator, Erin Sol at esol@seahec.org.

Health professionals who would like to share their information and experience with youth can learn more about becoming a guest speaker to SEAHEC’s Future Health Leaders Clubs by writing to Lupita Gonzales at lupita@seahec.org. Our Future Health Leaders Program provides high school youth in Ajo, Bisbee, Douglas, Tucson, and the Tohono O’odham nation, the opportunity to plan for and realize their professional goals in health careers, providing mentoring, college application assistance & more.