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El Paso, Texas one of 41 sites selected for national program to fight childhood obesity

El Paso, Texas, January 12, 2010 (PAHO/WHO)The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization U.S.-Mexico Border Office in collaboration with the Pan American Health and Education Foundation and local partners received a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation major Grant to serve as a model and provide guidelines to local and state government officials, policy and decision makers for the prevention and control of childhood and youth obesity; through policy and environmental changes, community participation and development, and a multi media campaign in healthy eating and active living will be monitored and evaluated in the Chamizal and other selected communities in El Paso, Texas.

The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization U.S.-Mexico Border Office in collaboration with the Pan American Health and Education Foundation and local partners that include the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, Project Vida, the City of El Paso Human and Community Development and Public Health Departments, Texas Department of State Health Services, the College of Health Sciences of the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Texas at Houston-School of Public Health-El Paso Regional Campus, El Paso Independent School District, and KINT-TV UNIVISION 26 have been awarded a $360,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to improve opportunities for physical activity and access to affordable healthy foods for children and families in the Chamizal Neighborhood. Based on a rigorous selection process that drew more than 500 proposals from across the country, the Chamizal Neighborhood in El Paso, Texas is one of 41 sites selected for the RWJF Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities initiative.

El Paso is the 6th largest city in Texas of which 76% are of Hispanic origin and 26% are under 15 years of age. In El Paso 57.4% of all deaths for 2005 were associated to heart diseases, diabetes mellitus, cancer, and cerebro-vascular disease. It is important to point out that 56.9% of Hispanic deaths in El Paso are due to the same causes where overweigh and obesity are important risk factors for the development of these illnesses. Available limited data indicates that 19% of Texas children 10-17 years of age are overweight. Hispanic school age kids are a major concern with overweight risk up to 44% for boys and 37 % for girls, whereas in the U.S. the situation among children and minors shows that over 17% of them are overweight or obese.

The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) in El Paso resulted in 30% and 22% overweight for boys and girls respectively. It is estimated that 36% (2,520) of children in Chamizal are less than 17 years of age and 10% of them are under 5 years. Chamizal has one high school, no middle schools and three elementary schools.

Local food groceries in the Chamizal are mostly comprised by small family owned business heavily influenced by local Mexican culture. Although data is limited, it seems that availability of healthy foods, especially fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grain cereal products and low-fat/ low-calorie food choices are limited. The anticipated impact is to bring the obesity issue to the local public agenda to built environment changes and the inclusion of healthy eating and active living as preventive measures for childhood and youth obesity.

“This grant will contribute to mobilizing policy makers and communities in El Paso to invest in prevention of childhood obesity”, said Dr. Maria Teresa Cerqueira, Project Director and Chief of the U.S. Mexico Border Office of the Pan American Health Organization. “With our partners in El Paso, we are committed to improving the settings where our most vulnerable children and youth live, study and play”

“To reverse this epidemic, communities are going to have to rally around their kids and provide the opportunities they need to be healthy,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Through this project, The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization U.S.-Mexico Border Office in collaboration with the Pan American Health and Education Foundation and local partners are doing what it takes to make sure children live better lives.”

Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities is a $33 million national program and RWJF’s largest investment to date in community-based solutions to childhood obesity. With nine Leading Sites chosen in late 2008, the program now spans 50 communities from Seattle to Puerto Rico. All are targeting improvements in local policies and their community environment—changes that research indicates could have the greatest impact on healthier eating, more active living and obesity prevention. Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities is a cornerstone of RWJF’s $500 million commitment to reverse the country’s childhood obesity epidemic by 2015.

The 40 other cities and regions just announced as Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities sites are:

Benton County, OR
Boone and Newton
Counties, AR
Buffalo, NY
Caguas, PR
Charleston, WV
Chattanooga, TN
Hamilton County, OH
Cook County, GA
Cuba, NM
Denver, CO
Desoto, Marshall and
Tate Counties, MS
Duval County, FL
Fitchburg, MA


Flint, MI
Greenville, SC
Houghton County, MI
Houston, TX
Jackson, MS
Jefferson County, AL
Kane County, IL
Kansas City, MO
Kingston, NY
Knoxville, TN
LakeWorth, Greenacres
and Palm Springs, FL
Milledgeville, GA
Milwaukee, WI


Moore and Montgomery
Counties, NC
Multnomah County, OR
Nash and
Edgecombe Counties, NC
New Orleans, LA
Omaha, NE
Philadelphia, PA
Phoenix, AZ
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Rochester, NY
San Antonio, TX
San Felipe Pueblo, NM
Silver City, NM
Spartanburg, SC
Watsonville and
Parajo Valley, CA

All were selected because of strong vision, partnership and a commitment to make lasting change in their communities. The new program grants will continue through June 2013. Visit to learn more about these communities’ work and plans.

About the El Paso Partnership for the Prevention of Childhood Obesity
A local initiate to advocate for the prevention of childhood obesity and overweight, by strengthening community involvement and increasing policy and decision maker’s awareness and investment in the improvement of living environments to support healthy lifestyles. Supported by the U.S. Mexico Border Office of the Pan American Health Organization, established since 1942 to provide technical cooperation to improve the health of the Border Population, the El Paso initiative focused on active living and healthy eating. Visit and to learn more about the El Paso and other initiatives.

About Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities
Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), advances community-based solutions that will help reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. It focuses on changing policies and environments to support active living and healthy eating among children and families. The program places special emphasis on reaching children who are at highest risk for obesity on the basis of income, race/ethnicity and geographic location. It will support RWJF’s efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States by 2015.

The Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities national program office is housed at Active Living by Design, part of the North Carolina Institute for Public Health at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Established in 2001 as an RWJF national program, Active Living By Design now serves funders and partnerships across the country that are fostering community-led change to build a culture of active living and healthy eating.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years, the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit


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