Universities Partner on Paso del Norte Institute for Healthy Living

Recognizing the critical need to foster healthy lifestyles and reduce obesity among the young people of the nation and particularly of the U.S.-Mexico border region, three area universities have partnered with the Paso del Norte Health Foundation to lead community/regional efforts initially focused on improving healthy eating and active living among the Paso del Norte region’s residents, especially children and youth.

The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP); The University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston, School of Public Health (UTSPH); The Texas Tech University Health Science Center-Paul L. Foster School of Medicine (TTUHSC-PLFSOM); and the Paso del Norte Health Foundation (PdNHF) have established a four-institutional partnership to develop the Paso del Norte Institute for Healthy Living. 

Funded with an initial $2.2 million for 5 years, the purpose of the Institute is to advance healthy nutrition and physical activity and to reduce childhood obesity across the Paso del Norte region.

Institute priorities are to:

-Promote healthy lifestyles, especially in regard to choices around food and exercise.

-Advance proper nutrition and physical activity across the Paso del Norte region through effective programs, the built environment, and public policies.

-Provide regional leadership and technical assistance to adapt, disseminate, and implement evidence-based approaches to foster healthy eating and active living in neighborhoods, schools, public facilities and businesses.

Combining the strengths of the four partners, the Institute will focus on lifestyle change in the Paso del Norte region, including far West Texas, southern New Mexico, and Juárez, Mexico. The various faculty and staff of the Institute will work with community leaders, organizations and agencies across the region to promote change from the individual level to broad community-wide policy initiatives. The partnership will build on existing community assets and is committed to meaningful community engagement to ensure sustainability and change.

The Paso Del Norte Institute for Healthy Living

Contact: Kathleen Curtis, PT, Ph.D., Principal Investigator
Dean and Professor, College of Health Sciences
The University of Texas at El Paso
500 W. University Ave
El Paso, TX 79968
915-747-7201
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: chs.utep.edu/pdnihl

Q&A:

Who will lead the Institute?
A national search for an Executive Director is currently under way. Additional staff will provide support and coordinate efforts between partner institutions. 

Why policies?
Policy is one of the most effective tools for wide-ranging and powerful change. We have learned many lessons from strong policies that protect the public’s health, such as those that eliminated cigarette smoke in the workplace, public buildings, and businesses.

Why now?
Fewer than 20 percent of adults consume the recommended five servings of fruits or vegetables per day. Among our low-income population, only 12 percent have access to the healthier foods available in a supermarket within 10 miles of their home. At the same time, El Paso County has 67 fast food restaurants for every 100,000 residents, which is the highest rate in the five-county West Texas, southern New Mexico region. In contrast, El Paso County has only one farmer’s market per 100,000 people.

Recent statistics show that 12 percent of our preschool children in El Paso County (ages 2-4) are obese. Seventy percent of adults are overweight or obese. 

This takes a toll on our population, with a high rate of diabetes (12.4 percent) and other obesity-related disorders, which generate increased costs for our region and burden our health care system.

How can people get involved?
Watch in the coming months for more information as we get started. Right now, find a family member, friend or co-worker to walk with you a total of 30 minutes per day. Kids should be active for at least 60 minutes per day. Everyone can change their daily habits to incorporate more physical activity.