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Public Health Rep. 2004 Jan-Feb; 119(1): 40–47.
PMCID: PMC1502256

Special action groups for policy change and infrastructure support to foster healthier communities on the Arizona-Mexico border.


As part of efforts to help stem the rising tide of diabetes among Hispanic Americans living in Arizona-Mexico border communities, the Border Health Strategic Initiative was launched to foster community-based approaches to diabetes prevention and control. A major thrust of the initiative was establishment of special community action groups (SAGs) to help stimulate policy change and sustain interventions designed to reduce the risk of diabetes and its complications. The SAGs met regularly for more than two years, focusing primarily on policies that encourage development of an infrastructure to support physical activity and healthier nutrition. Through involvement with planning commissions, parks and recreation, and private companies, two community development block grants were obtained to support new walking trails. The SAGs also encouraged elementary schools to improve physical education and change vending machine products, and grocery store owners and managers to allow the demonstration and promotion of healthier foods. These groups, focused on policy and infrastructure change within their communities, may be the glue needed to hold comprehensive community health promotion efforts together.

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