Partnership to impact school health outcomes

August 22, 2022

School environments have a major impact on the health and development of children and adolescences. A focus on safe and supportive environments, healthy foods, health education and physical activity are a few of the key areas that the Paso del Norte Health Foundation in partnership with Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) are addressing to strengthen and implement school districts wellness policies to promote student wellness.

Kristen Ortega, AFHK, District Wellness Policy, and Smoke-Free Project Coordinator, Michelle Smith, AFHK Texas State Coordinator, and Stephanie McCoy, AFHK Regional Coordinator have been working with school districts, community partners, volunteers, and other organizations to provide local support on key health issues that relate to the Health Foundation’s Healthy Living priority area and A Smoke-Free Paso del Norte Initiative.

School health outcomes that are making a difference through the partnership include:

  • Assisting two school districts to revise their recess policies, ensuring that students have the opportunity for at least 20 minutes of free time daily.
  • Bringing school districts and community partners together to advocate for healthy schools through the El Paso School Health Coalition
  • Supporting schools with materials and an event for Safe Routes to Schools
  • Working with El Paso area public school districts on tobacco-free schools
  • Facilitating the Tobacco Control Network and steering committees
  • Providing support with materials and training on teen vaping and “Let’s Talk! What you need to know about teen vaping” presentations to 40 school district staff and more than 130 health and social service community practitioners

“Action for Health Kids is creating relationships and providing technical support in strengthening school wellness policies, making them a perfect partner to work with,” said Jana Renner, Senior Program Officer for the Paso del Norte Health Foundation.

Action for Healthy Kids is a national nonprofit that reaches over 4,000 schools, including seven El Paso school districts and one Doña Ana school district. They have impacted more than 178,000 children and adolescents in the Paso del Norte region, helping to create healthier schools by bringing all members of a school community together and equipping them with the tools and resources they need to make change happen.

For more information on the impact this partnership has made, contact Jana Renner, Senior Program Officer for the Paso del Norte Health Foundation at, 915-218-2616 or Audrey Garcia, Program Officer, Paso del Norte Health Foundation at, 915-218-2623.

PDNHF Initiative: Healthy Eating

A high-quality diet with appropriate daily caloric intake provides essential nutrients, helps people maintain a healthy weight, and decreases their risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. Evidence associates healthy eating with better health outcomes; however, many people do not consume the daily recommended levels of nutritious foods, such as fruits and vegetables, that make up a healthy diet. The Health Foundation’s focus in the Healthy Eating initiative is educational programs, such as nutrition and cooking classes, that influence behavior in selecting, preparing, cooking, and eating healthy foods and policy and promotion activities that encourage healthy eating.

View Strategy Brief (English)

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Foundation Staff: Jana Renner

Healthy Eating

PDNHF Initiative: Physical Activity

Regular physical activity is associated with positive health outcomes across the lifespan. In addition to decreasing people’s risk of chronic disease, physical activity improves cognitive function in youth, reduces anxiety and depression, and improves sleep. Despite these benefits, many do not engage in the recommended amount of daily physical activity. The Health Foundation’s stake in physical activity began in the early 2000’s with Walk El Paso. More recently, the Health Foundation constructed the Playa Drain Trail demonstration project and has partnered with regional stakeholders for the development of the Paso del Norte Trail network. Other areas of emphasis include the promotion of physical activity through educational programs, campaigns, and trail and park use.

2021 Paso del Norte Trail Report

Paso del Norte Trail Alignment

View Strategy Brief (English)

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Foundation Staff: Jana Renner

Additional Links

Physical Activity

PDNHF Initiative: A Smoke-Free Paso del Norte

Although current youth smoking rates have decreased, the use of electronic cigarettes and youth vaping has now overtaken smoking. According to the recent National Youth Tobacco Survey, E-cigarettes were the most commonly ever used tobacco product overall. Less is known about vaping, but science confirms that nicotine negatively affects the adolescent brain and is addictive. E-cigarette use among youth also is linked with use of other tobacco products as well as alcohol and marijuana abuse.

Smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States.

View Strategy Brief (English)

View Strategy Brief (Español)

Foundation Staff: Audrey Garcia

Additional Links

A Smoke-Free Paso del Norte

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