San Antonio, Texas


Excerpt from Lessons for Leaders:

The San Antonio Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities partnership piloted Healthy Hubs, an integrated, multi-pronged strategy to leverage impact and create healthy community change. Learning from the mixed success of early neighborhood pilots, it continues to use a neighborhood and community-school partnership approach in which 10 neighborhood initiatives are supported with full-time community organizers and mini grants.

For more information, read the full story.

November 2013

Between its founding by Catholic missionaries in the early 1700s and its vivid mix of Spanish, German and other cultures, San Antonio is one of the most historic cities in the country. This predominantly Hispanic city is known as a fun place to live and a great place to visit. Yet residents also know the challenge of living healthy lives here.

In low-income neighborhoods like the city’s west side, a densely populated area with more than 107,000 residents, one-third live below the federal poverty level. Educational achievement is lower, and unemployment is higher. There is less park space per capita than anywhere in the city, and healthy food options are limited.

However, after receiving the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC) grant, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District (Metro Health) coalesced a partnership of more than a dozen agencies and organizations to improve opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity. While prioritizing the west side, they also sought opportunities to change policies and environments that would affect the entire city.

Within the past four years, the HKHC partnership has made strong inroads to improving options for healthy eating and physical activity.

Among many other achievements, the partnership has accomplished the following:

  • A new concept, Healthy Hubs, was piloted to layer multiple policy and environmental change strategies for improved health within a concentrated area. A Hub has at least one healthy eating venue and at least one physical activity resource, is safely accessible by walking or biking, and includes a strong community engagement and promotion. Collins Garden became the first Healthy Hub through leveraging Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) funds for specific improvements to the neighborhood park and streets. Expansion of Healthy Hubs is in the works.
  • The San Antonio City Council adopted a Complete Streets ordinance and passed a street and infrastructure city bond to fund street improvements.
  • Three shared-use agreements between the city and multiple school districts are in place to better utilize existing playgrounds, school yards and public green spaces, expanding opportunities for safe places to be physically active.
  • ¡Por Vida!, a restaurant recognition program developed by the San Antonio Restaurant Association, the San Antonio Dietetic Association, the City of San Antonio and other partners, was developed to increase options for healthier menu items. The ¡Por Vida!logo identifies meals that meet nutritional guidelines. To date, ¡Por Vida! meals can be found in 23 citywide restaurants, hospitals and other retail food settings.
  • To increase access to healthy produce for home-cooked meals, the Healthy Selection Coalition developed “Tiendita Por Vida”. Six convenience stores have been supported with refrigeration units (using CPPW funds), connections to produce vendors and promotions including cooking demonstrations, healthy recipe cards and videos. Participation in the program is growing.

Just as impressively, the partnerships forged between city offices, community agencies and residents have deepened and the commitment to health has become rooted in practice. People are embracing a new culture which lifts healthy eating and active living to prominence.

“We’re very happy to see how the conversation around health has evolved,” said Kathleen Shields, HKHC project director. “The planning department, for example, has made health a top priority for future projects. In addition, strong coalitions are in place to scale our successes across the city so that everyone in San Antonio has the opportunity for optimal health.”

For more information, view a short film about their work.

San Antonio, Texas