Healthy Eating Active Living Collaborative – Serving Older and Younger Adults

January 6, 2022

By: Sandra Millon Underwood
RN, PhD, FAAN, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

Valeria Carter Salinas MD
Community Health Specialist

Sophia Najwa Hamdan
Project Assistant

Heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer are responsible for approximately two-thirds of all deaths in Wisconsin. Research reveals that these diseases are often associated with poor nutrition, physical inactivity, excess weight, and other high-risk lifestyle behaviors. Likewise, research suggests that most of these diseases could be avoided and managed if programs that emphasize health promotion, healthy eating, active living, and weight management were targeted to populations in the local community.

There is little debate – there is a need for more carefully crafted healthy eating and active living programs for older adults in Southeastern Wisconsin. The Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Collaborative team is committed to doing just that!

The HEAL Collaborative was formalized in 2019 as a community-based initiative to promote healthy eating, active living, and the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The project is one of several initiatives supported by the American Cancer Society and the Kohl’s Healthy Family Program to improve nutrition and increase physical activity among residents of local communities in Southeastern Wisconsin.

The HEAL Collaborative, originally designed to engage clients/ residents serviced at senior centers, apartment complexes, transitional housing sites, faith-based community centers, social service agencies, and emergency food pantries/ networks throughout Milwaukee, has expanded its reach to also include men and women who reside in Racine and Kenosha.

The chefs, exercise specialist, social worker, community health workers, and clinicians involved in the project facilitate a variety of in-person and virtual healthy living presentations tailored to the local community.

Cooking demonstrations and presentations offer suggestions on how to prepare nutritious meals using fresh produce, canned vegetables, fruit, dried beans, meats/fish, and shelf-stable food products provided in stock boxes distributed at the senior centers, local food banks and emergency food programs.

Active living presentations highlight ways in which older adults (including those with chronic health conditions) can safely increase their physical activity in their homes and local neighborhoods.

Educational materials and links to local healthy living and wellness resources are also provided.

The HEAL Collaborative is facilitated in keeping with Wisconsin’s COVID-19 EMERGENCY ORDER. The weekly presentations, food demonstrations, and active living support are provided virtually using Facebook, ZOOM and teleconference.

Select sessions are presented to small groups at senior sites and community centers. To avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus social distancing, hand sanitation and facial coverings are required of all small group attendees.

For more information about the HEAL Collaborative contact Valeria Carter at To preview HEAL Collaborative photos, videos, recipes, and commentaries visit