$7 million to build Healthy Habits in the region

$7 million to build Healthy Habits in the region

The Paso del Norte Health Foundation awarded a collaborative of partners more than $7 million over five-years under the Foundation’s Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) initiative to support the Paso del Norte Institute for Healthy Living (IHL).

Partners include:

  • Paso del Norte Health Foundation
  • Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center – Paul L. Foster School of Medicine
  • The University of Texas at El Paso
  • University of Texas Health Science Center – Houston, School of Public Health

The overall goal of the IHL is to develop innovative and sustainable solutions for healthy eating and active living in the Paso del Norte region. The IHL will work with its four partners to pursue the following goals of the HEAL initiative:

  • Increase fruit and vegetable consumption and improve portion control
  • Increase physical activity and decrease sedentary behavior
  • Create an environment that promotes healthy eating and active living without bias against obesity
  • Achieve long-term sustainability of the IHL and the HEAL initiative

“The IHL will advance programs and policies that promote eating healthy and being active by engaging multiple stakeholders ” says Dr. Michael Kelly, Vice President of Program for the Paso del Norte Health Foundation. “We aspire to create a region where all people have the ability and opportunity to eat healthy and live active.”

In an effort to lead the region in using innovative, evidence-based approaches to improve and assess health, Dr. Leah Whigham, Executive Director of the IHL, and the IHL staff, will work with partners to assess changes in fruit and vegetable intake by measuring carotenoids in the skin. Carotenoids are compounds found in fruits and vegetables (e.g., beta carotene in carrots). Tracking changes in these compounds in the body is considered the best way to measure changes in fruit and vegetable intake. Carotenoids are also among the many compounds in fruits and vegetables that are beneficial to one’s body. To measure carotenoids, the IHL uses a device that involves shining a light on the skin of the hand. This measure is one example as to how the IHL will track health improvements across the region.

“This is a new approach and the first in the region,” says Dr. Whigham. “We hope results will help the IHL staff and partners to identify new strategies to promote a healthier region.”