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Youth, Nutrition, & Fitness Initiatives

Houston - Harris County Youth Nutrition and Fitness Initiative

In September 2002, St. Luke’s Episcopal Health Charities launched the Houston – Harris County Youth Nutrition and Fitness Initiative (YNFI) in Houston’s East End. With the help of the East End Healthy Children’s Collaborative, SLEHC assembled thirty-one community and academic members in a series of seven planning dialogues for the design and implementation of a multi-phase strategy to address the public health concern surrounding children and obesity. Since 1980, the number of American overweight children has doubled and the number of overweight adolescents has tripled. According to a recent survey of the Texas Department of Health Region 6 (which includes the Houston metropolitan area), the percentage of 4th graders who were at-risk or overweight was almost 50% for both boys and girls and these were the highest rates of all Public Health Regions in the state (Hoelscher, 2003).

Consortium Formed
As a response to YNFI, the Steps to a Healthier Houston-Harris County Consortium (Steps Consortium) formed in 2003. This coalition consisting of more than 25 area organizations has an interest in promoting and identifying programs that reduce disease among at-risk populations in Houston and Harris County. Specifically, the Steps Consortium has identified obesity, as well as related risk factors of poor nutrition and lack of exercise, as its priority issues of focus.

The mission of the Steps Consortium is to help Harris County residents live longer, better, and healthier lives. To accomplish this mission, Consortium member organizations pool assets to carry out enterprises beyond the resources of any one agency.

The Steps Consortium has identified obesity, as well as related risk factors of poor nutrition and lack of physical activity, as its priority focus. The Youth Nutrition and Fitness Initiative of 2003 reports that 50% of County 4th graders are at-risk for overweight/obesity, the highest rate in Texas. Further, this report stated that low-income families in Harris County are particularly affected by a lack of access to affordable healthy food and produce, as well as lack of access to safe places to exercise.

In spring, 2005, the Steps Consortium responded to these priority issues by applying for funding to implement and support interventions addressing obesity prevention through nutrition and physical activity. The Houston Endowment Inc. awarded the Steps Consortium over $2.4 million to carry out a school health program called CATCH (Coordinated Approach to School Health) in over 450 elementary schools. The STEPS Consortium CATCH Project has impacted Harris County through this grant in the following ways:

  • Trained 2,011 school personnel in CATCH
  • Satisfied the Texas Education Agency (TEA) state mandate for 488 schools
  • Served 19 independent school districts
  • Reached more than 335,000 school children via trainings
In addition to the Steps CATCH project, the Steps Consortium will also participate in documenting the nutrition and physical activity trends in Harris County adolescents in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) Survey. In April 2005, the Steps Consortium sought and received a modest award from Texas Department of State Health to implement the Walk Texas program in Barrett Station, Cloverleaf, and the East End communities. Through Walk Texas, partnership organizations employed a variety of marketing strategies to successfully implement free health screenings, nutrition classes and food demonstrations, formation of walking groups, and walk trail guides. In January 2006, the Steps Consortium helped to support research being conducted at the University of Houston on lifestyle behavioral change for young Hispanic girls and their mothers. In 2007, the Steps Consortium was selected for inclusion in the Best Practices in Texas 2007 Nutrition & Physical Activity Recognition Program.To help Houston and Harris County make bigger steps towards obesity prevention, contact Diane Pavey at [email protected].
YNFI Member
The East End Healthy
Children’s Collaborative*
City of Houston, Department of Health Cathedral Health Ministries
Head Start Communities In Schools
Houston Food Bank Community Family Center
Houston Independent School District El Centro de Corazon
Joint City/County Commission on Children The Institute of Religion
Kelsey Research Foundation Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
Neighborhood Centers, Head Start The Rusk School Health Promotion Project
Southwest Texas State University  
Texas Department of Health  
Texas Women’s University  
United Way of Texas Gulf Coast  
The University of Houston  
The University of Texas Medical School  
The University of Texas School of Public Health  
Urban Harvest  

More Information:
For more information about the Youth Nutrition and Fitness Initiative, a strategic plan for the prevention and treatment of overweight children in Houston – Harris County, please contact us.

* St. Luke’s Episcopal Health Charities is a member and facilitated both the YNFI and the EEHCC.

Complete Report

View the full report on Houston - Harris County Youth Nutrition and Fitness Initiative (UNIT) in Houston's East End.

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This site last updated July 9, 2008