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Five women stand together; one is holding up a GAVA sign

GAVA: Empowering a community to rally for their own health

Project overview

Healthy community initiatives are forming in more and more regions of the United States to address our country’s toughest health issues. There is increasing consensus that we cannot effectively or sustainably address complex public health issues unless we work hand in hand with people living in the communities and ZIP codes most deeply affected by these issues. That means our best solutions involve building innovative and non-traditional partnerships with individuals and sectors to achieve lasting change.

In 2012, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation launched Go Austin! ¡Vamos Austin! (GAVA) with a mission to substantially improve the health of two communities in Austin, Texas (ZIP codes 78744 and 78745). GAVA was created to organize and mobilize communities to reduce barriers to health, and to implement and advocate for pragmatic solutions to improve the health of their residents.

How it helps

GAVA is a coalition of residents, community leaders, and nonprofit organizations who organize and mobilize people in the community to reduce barriers to health. Through its work, GAVA aims to provide the foundation for communities that are strong, stable, and healthy. Their vision is of a future in which zip codes no longer serve as predictors of health outcomes, and in which all residents of Austin have access to healthy food and active living in their neighborhoods.

We have learned that this work is not simple. It involves strengthening the leadership skills of residents already advocating for better health. It requires building an army of community leaders to expand what’s working. It calls for matching best practices with communities’ own priorities to drive better health for families. Most importantly, it requires listening to the people who live in the GAVA ZIP codes and establishing trusted relationships with them as we work together for the health of their communities.

Community-Led Health in Two Austin Neighborhoods

Between 2013 and 2018, GAVA flattened obesity rates among adults by addressing underlying issues like a lack of healthy food in corner stores or safe places to exercise. Two years after the pilot ended, GAVA is a registered nonprofit and has grown into a coalition tackling many different issues throughout the Austin community. Read our report about other valuable lessons learned in this community-led effort.

Get the Report

Foundation Project Lead