UTEP Institute for Healthy Living Celebrates HEAL Week

Last Updated on May 16, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Originally published May 16, 2017

By Victoria Bruce

Institute for Healthy Living

More than 500 participants joined the Institute for Healthy Living (IHL), a UTEP institute established in 2014 with funding from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, to celebrate the 2nd annual HEAL Week. HEAL Week, which stands for Healthy Eating and Active Living, was established in 2016 to raise awareness of the importance of healthy eating and active living to prevent disease, to provide continuing education to healthcare providers in the areas of nutrition and obesity, and to celebrate IHL partners dedicated to increasing healthy eating and active living in the Paso del Norte region.

The Institute for Healthy Living presented the first annual HEAL Hero award to UTEP’s Physical Fitness in the Golden Age program. On hand for the recognition were, from left, Michael Kelly, Ph.D., vice president of programs for the Paso del Norte Health Foundation; Golden Age Fitness Program participants Ana Macias and Hector Beltran; Golden Age Fitness Program staff Mariana Luna; Golden Age Fitness Program participant Henry King; Golden Age Fitness Program staff Deneb Acevedo; UTEP President Diana Natalicio; Leah Whigham, Ph.D., executive director of the Institute for Healthy Living; Sandor Dorgo, Ph.D., director of the Golden Age Fitness Program; Marcel Alvarez, Golden Age Fitness Program participant; Valeria Saucedo, Golden Age Fitness Program staff; Bruce Parsons, member of the IHL Executive Council; and Tracy Yellen, CEO of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation.

HEAL Week included four major events. The first was the launch of the new HEAL Alliance, a collective of coalitions, councils, task forces and working groups focused on nutrition and physical activity in the region. Groups range from the County Trail Task Force, the Food Policy Council and the Border Coalition for Fitness to the Regional School Lunch Coalition. Some groups have been in existence for many years, while others are newly formed with leadership from the IHL. The purpose of the alliance is to coordinate the work of these multiple organizations to help make healthy eating and active living the easy choice in the Paso del Norte region. 

The HEAL Celebrate reception highlighted the work of the IHL and its many partners over the last year. The IHL functions as a backbone organization for the HEAL Initiative of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, promoting healthy eating and active living in the Paso del Norte region. UTEP President Diana Natalicio and Tracy Yellen, Paso del Norte Health Foundation CEO, addressed the value of community partnerships to tackle a range of complex issues, from food insecurity to diabetes, that are at the center of the IHL’s work.

Bruce Parsons, assistant health director at the City of El Paso and IHL Executive Council member, concluded the reception by presenting the first annual HEAL Hero award to UTEP’s Physical Fitness in the Golden Age program for its impact on physical activity in the region and long-term sustainability. Sandor Dorgo, Ph.D., director of the program and associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology at UTEP, along with several of his staff and program participants, were there to receive the award. The Golden Age Fitness Program started more than 11 years ago with seed funding from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation and in-kind support from UTEP. Now fully self-sustaining, the program supports adults 55 years of age and older through a comprehensive fitness program that aims to improve overall health and functional ability, and maintain independent living and mobility with support from program supervisors and kinesiology undergraduate students. More than 800 adults have participated and 1,500 students have received training in the program since it began.

The HEAL U: Obesity Mini Course was a continuing education opportunity for health care providers. Professionals from the region participated in a free training opportunity led by top physicians and scientists in the areas of nutrition, physical activity and obesity. Among the speakers were members of the IHL Scientific Advisory Board who are nationally and internationally recognized leaders in their fields of expertise. These presentations were complemented by a mock patient consult and a patient panel, where providers learned how to help patients with weight management, nutrition and physical activity. Continuing education credits were available for physicians, nurses, dietitians and public health professionals who attended. 

Finally, the HEAL Unite: Community Wellness Fair was a family-friendly event open to the public and held at the UTEP Student Recreation Center. The primary purpose was to provide IHL community partners an opportunity to showcase their programs and projects related to HEAL. In addition, free health screenings were available to attendees and included body composition analysis, blood pressure checks, blood glucose testing, and veggie meter assessment. Additional partners at the event offered UTEP Student Recreation Center tours, massages, bike rides, child ID card printing, healthy food samples, games, bounce houses, music, a free raffle drawing and more. The Hospitals of Providence partnered with the IHL to support this event.

To learn more about the IHL, visit http://www.pdnihl.org/ or email pdnihl@utep.edu