In Texas, nearly 2 million lives are threatened by diabetes, and in the South Dallas community of Frazier, those numbers were only growing.

With no primary care physician and a flooded emergency department, Baylor Scott & White Health revamped an underutilized neighborhood recreation center, creating an access point for care and a one-stop shop to combat the stranglehold diabetes had on residents.

“The commitment here is to really make a difference in this community,” says Joel Allison, president and CEO of Baylor Scott & White Health, “and show that we can truly improve the health of a population and prove that prevention, education and screenings do make a difference and have an impact.”

In 2010, the Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute at the Juanita J. Craft Recreation Center opened its doors to the community — offering a newly renovated family health center, primary care clinic, diabetes education services and even a demonstration kitchen to help residents with healthful eating. The 22 acres surrounding the center provide space for tennis and basketball courts, walking paths and lifestyle classes.

In economically depressed Frazier, 60 percent of residents are unemployed, and 33 percent live below the poverty level.

Community needs assessments and a board member who grew up near Frazier found that the area was also located in a food desert — with no local grocery store within a mile of the neighborhood.

So once a week, a farm stand sponsored by Baylor Scott & White pops up, offering low-cost fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition to the fresh food, a nutritionist is on hand to educate residents on developing healthful habits.

Community events such as DHWI cook-offs and the annual Healthy Harvest 5K bring the community together to help spread awareness about the center.

These services and the DHWI are all part of a larger focus, says Allison. “This is about understanding the communities you serve and how you can best meet those needs. Coming up with unique and innovative ways to improve community health, lower health care costs and improve the health of the individual — it’s really around the Triple Aim.”

And with more than 18 collaborative partners, including the city of Dallas, the health system has a lot of eyes and ears out in the community to identify and help to address those needs.

As for Allison’s aim to make an impact in Frazier, the results speak for themselves. More than 4,000 community members have participated directly in DHWI programs. As of July 31, 2015, a total of 40 percent of the institute’s members who have diabetes have achieved optimal blood sugar levels, and 67 percent have reached optimal blood pressure control.

Not only that, but changes in the neighborhood are visible; with a children’s medical center opening a clinic nearby, the community has really been revitalized, says Allison. It's an effort others may find useful, the CEO says.

"Type II diabetes isn’t exclusive to southern Dallas. This model, we believe, will be able to be replicated in other parts of the communities we serve. The institute really has turned into a destination around wellness, prevention, exercise and a how-to on avoiding diabetes.”



Pictured: Once a week, a farm stand sponsored by Baylor Scott & White pops up, offering low-cost fresh fruits and vegetables.

About the award

Each year, the American Hospital Association honors up to five programs led by AHA member hospitals as “bright stars of the health care field” with the AHA NOVA Award. Winners are recognized for improving community health by looking beyond patients’ physical ailments, rooting out the economic and social barriers to care and collaborating with other community stakeholders. The AHA NOVA Award is directed and staffed by the AHA's Office of the Secretary. Visit for more information.