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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas awards UHV second grant to expand kidney program

A University of Houston-Victoria faculty member is expanding a community-based health program after receiving a $165,000 grant through the University of Houston Foundation from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas.

The grant, funded through Healthy Kids, Healthy Families® – BCBSTX’s signature community investments program – will finance the expansion of a program examining risk factors for chronic kidney disease as well as exploring ways patients can lower their chances of developing kidney problems. The grant – the second one awarded to the UHV program – will be used to bring 50 more participants into the Victoria County program and begin offering the program to 50 more participants in Port Lavaca and Calhoun County.

Fred Litton

“Receiving a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas not once, but twice, is an impressive accomplishment,” said Fred Litton, dean of the UHV School of Education, Health Professions & Human Development. “The program created through the initial grant is a positive community outreach tool, and we are honored and humbled to receive a second grant to continue that work.”

Kidney diseases are the ninth-leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and risk factors include high blood pressure and diabetes. This program is intended to help educate and raise awareness of the risk factors that can lead to or worsen chronic kidney disease. The program is free and open to anyone 18 or older.

“These grants support strategic partnerships with organizations that have a shared interest in creating communities of healthy Texans,” said Dr. Robert Morrow, who leads community investment for BCBSTX and is president of the Houston and Southeast Texas region. “We have been providing health insurance in Texas for 90 years. We believe it is part of our mission to help our members as well as our communities to be healthy and informed regarding health issues such as chronic kidney disease and COPD. That’s why we invest in as well as believe in the power of partnerships to educate and impact the health of our communities.”

The program is led by Michael Wiblishauser, a UHV assistant professor of health studies, in partnership with the Victoria Alliance Against Chronic Kidney Disease, a community-based group that includes a partnership with the Victoria County Public Health Department as well as Drs. Fasail N. Khan and Haresh Kumar of Victoria Nephrology Associates.

Michael Wiblishauser

“I am excited and honored that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas has chosen to continue its partnership with UHV through this program,” Wiblishauser said. “We’ve already seen positive results in the health of many of the program’s attendees, and I’m looking forward to having the resources to reach even more people in Victoria and Calhoun County.”

As part of the program, Wiblishauser and the alliance will recruit an additional 50 people in Victoria County and 50 people in Calhoun County. The participants will attend biweekly sessions for blood pressure and blood sugar testing and learn from health professionals, including nutritionists and fitness trainers, to help them develop healthier habits.

In addition, participants will be given personalized nutrition and physical activity plans; healthy cooking lessons; incentives for making healthier choices, including monthly $25 H-E-B gift cards and a drawing for a year’s membership at the YMCA; and educational materials and tools, including Fit Bits and a Portionmate set for new participants.

Courtney Middleton-Sides

“This grant gives us the ability to offer participants some tools that can help them make and monitor positive changes in their health and fitness,” said Courtney Middleton-Sides, UHV senior director for corporate and foundation relations. “We are grateful for the support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas and the Victoria Alliance Against Chronic Kidney Disease.

For more information about the program, contact Wiblishauser at 361-570-4178 or wiblishauserm@uhv.edu.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973, offers courses leading to 70 bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degree programs and concentrations in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.