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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grants PAHEF $360,000 for “Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities” Childhood Obesity Initiative in El Paso, TX

Media Contact: Ashley Gatewood

WASHINGTON, DC (January 12, 2010) — The Pan American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF) received a $360,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for a three-year project called “Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities,” to promote policy and environmental changes, community participation and development, and a multimedia campaign in healthy eating and active living in El Paso, Texas. “There is a great need for this type of project as residents of El Paso, the seventh-poorest county in the United States, often lack access to healthy foods, and a lack of recreational areas prevents many people from exercising or engaging in sports outdoors,” said Edward L. Kadunc, executive director of PAHEF.

The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization’s U.S.-Mexico Border Office will lead the initiative with support from partners that include the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, Project Vida, the City of El Paso Human and Community Development and Public Health Departments, the 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, the El Paso Independent School District, and KINT-TV UNIVISION 26. Their combined expertise and resources are anticipated to contribute to the project’s overall success in creating healthier kids and healthier communities.

The awarding of this grant for “Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities” recognizes PAHEF’s commitment and proven track record in improving health for all in the Americas through fighting chronic diseases, combating childhood obesity, and promoting healthy aging.

The project focuses on children and youths ages 5 to 17, with a special emphasis on those living in Chamizal, one of the oldest and poorest neighborhoods in El Paso. The projected community and school activities will directly affect at least 5,000 young people. The mass media campaign will provide critical information to approximately 183,000 children and youths (26% of the population) as well as parents, teachers, and other influential persons in the El Paso region.

The participants’ body mass index (BMI) will be used as an indicator of the program’s success. An early phase of the project will include a baseline needs assessment to determine childhood and youth obesity prevalence, BMI, availability of healthy foods, and levels of physical activity. “Project leaders will engage the community early and often by conducting focus groups with community members, leaders, parents, teachers, students, business owners, and others,” explained Edward L. Kadunc. With these insights, a full project plan will be devised to create inviting, safe environments for exercise and increase availability of healthy foods at school cafeterias, restaurants, grocery stores, and other food vendors.


About the Pan American Health and Education Foundation
Founded in 1968, the Pan American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF) is a public 501(c)(3) foundation dedicated to fostering public health programs in the Americas that address major health concerns. PAHEF improves the lives of people throughout the Americas by working with the public and private sectors as well as major public health research, policy, and development groups.

PAHEF enjoys a unique relationship with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization.

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, placing special emphasis on reaching children who are at highest risk based on race or ethnicity, income, or geographic location. 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. To find out more about the sites or the project visit


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