FEATURED ORGANIZATION: Go Austin Vamos Austin

 

Go Austin Vamos Austin (GAVA) is a group of community leaders and partners working to
tackle the health issues facing the 78744 and 78745 area codes of Austin, Texas. GAVA was
born out of one physician's mission to help her patients overcome their health problems.
Dr. Aliya Hussaini was a resident physician at People’s Community Clinic where she saw patients
who were dealing with obesity and obesity-related diseases. These patients had nowhere
to turn to for handling these problems and faced obstacles that prevented them from getting
healthier. Her position as Health Director at the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation gave her the
support she needed to come up with a plan to help her patients and others in the community
overcome obesity and its diseases.

Other leadership organizations in the Dove Springs community combined efforts with Dr.
Hussaini and her team to employ this plan. In 2012, the initiative officially launched its efforts to
decrease rates of childhood obesity and diabetes in the 78744 area code and have expanded into
the 78745 area code.

GAVA’s approach focuses on physical activity, community food, early childhood, schools, and
community safety to implement change. In 2016, GAVA was able to work with the Austin Parks
and Recreation Department to allocate $1.15 million towards improving park infrastructure. Ever
since, community members have used these resources at a much higher rate. GAVA reports that
38% of residents in the 78744 and 78745 face severe food insecurity and lack access to nutritious
food. To combat this, GAVA partnered with the Austin Public Health Department’s Fresh for
Less Initiative and the Sustainable Food center to increase access to healthy options. Weekly
farm stands, the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, and community gardens are just some of the
ways that GAVA has effectively increased access to nutritious and healthy foods.
Early Childhood focuses on providing children with healthy food and appropriate activities for
these kids to learn from an early age how to live a healthy lifestyle. This work also includes
teaching parents and teachers how to include healthy habits into the children’s daily routines.
High schools, middle schools, and elementary schools in the 78744 and 78745 area codes have
all experienced the benefits of GAVA’s hard work. Organizing Coordinated School Health teams
has been crucial in meeting student's health needs. In addition, GAVA began to offer breakfast in
classrooms, install salad bars, and integrate material from the Coordinated Approach to Child
Health (CATCH) toolkit to further advance students health. These efforts have evolved schools
into community hubs for health and wellness in their respective communities.
GAVA is also working to improve neighborhood safety through their Community Safety
initiatives. GAVA has worked with the Austin Code Department and Austin Police Department
to create an environment that feels clean and safe for its residents by petitioning for street
lighting improvements, building trust between officers and residents, and other effective
protocols geared towards improving community safety.