HKHC: El Paso, Texas


Excerpt from Lessons for Leaders:

The HKHC El Paso partnership confronted barriers to residents’ use of the Chamizal National Park because the dark green park ranger uniforms looked like those worn by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

For more information, read the full story.

November 2013

El Paso is located along the U.S.-Mexico border, a city of 705,000 framed by mountains and surrounded by desert. It boasts of numerous higher education institutions and corporate offices but struggles with the low educational achievement and extreme poverty of many residents. The Chamizal neighborhood is among its most challenged areas. 

In this small, mostly Latino community, 41 percent of adults have little English proficiency and 70 percent have no high school diploma. Drugs, gangs and prostitution often prompt fearful parents to keep their children indoors for safety. Couple these problems with very limited access to affordable nutritious food, and obesity is inevitable.

With funding through Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC), the U.S. Mexico Border Office of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) with the Pan American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF) organized a local partnership to improve conditions, especially for low-income children.

Partners began with an assessment of the food and physical activity environments and by building relationships with key partners and residents. A focus on the Chamizal neighborhood helped ensure a focus on addressing health disparities.

With the aid of an Executive Steering Committee, Technical Advisory Group and many involved stakeholders, the HKHC initiative in El Paso made several key gains:

“This is a true collaborative effort between many partners and local residents,” said project director Maria Teresa Cerqueira. “What happens at the neighborhood level influences city-level efforts which, in turn, impact our region. Everything is interconnected here. That’s why I’m so proud of what has been achieved through our HKHC partnership. There is a momentum that will continue to create a healthier border region for all.”