The Healthy Activities Partnership Program for Youth (HAPPY)

The HAPPY community-engaged research project, established in 2009, is sponsored by the Wisconsin Partnership Program (WPP) and is facilitated by staff with the UW-Madison ICTR Collaborative Center for Health Equity (CCHE). In partnership with the United Community Center (UCC) and the Bruce Guadaupe Community School (BGCS), HAPPY activities examine individual, social, and environmental facilitators and barriers to physical activity and good nutrition among Latino students and their families.

HAPPY I (2009-2012) included nearly 300 BGCS students providing data to assess their health risk factors, including more than 100 students who provided a blood sample for metabolic analysis. Using Global Positioning System (GPS) data and student-generated digital photography, UCC staff and UW researchers learned how these children and their parents make nutritional choices, as well as how they use neighborhood resources like parks and bike paths. Middle school students tracked and recorded their daily activities, including dietary habits and ‘screen time’ (time spent on phone, computer or watching TV), donated a blood sample to learn about risk for diabetes, and participated in gym fitness tests. Some students volunteered during the summer to photo document the neighborhood spaces where they spent time, and share with HAPPY team members why those spaces are important.


The HAPPY I UW academic team was led by Aaron Carrel, MD, and David Allen, MD, both professors of pediatrics at UW SMPH. Collaborating academic partners represent multiple UW-Madison departments including Nutrition, Family Medicine, Environmental Studies/Landscape Architecture, Civil Engineering, and Urban and Regional Planning.  Numerous instructors from physical education, computer sciences and science courses at BGCS provide extensive support and guidance on the HAPPY implementation.


Findings from HAPPY I informed a second HAPPY grant application made by UCC to the WPP.  HAPPY II is an implementation project with UCC students and staff that launched in Spring 2013 and will run for 3 years. The goal of the HAPPY II project is to improve healthy eating and physical activity habits among Latino children (ages 10 to 14) through a comprehensive intervention targeting individual, social-environmental, physical-environmental and societal influences on health behaviors. The HAPPY II project deliver evidence-based, culturally appropriate curricula in physical activity, healthy eating, media literacy and neighborhood environmental assessment, as well as education events aimed at improving family support for physical activity and healthy eating at home.

HAPPY II team member, Samuel Dennis, PhD, ASLA, a geographer and landscape architect whose research and practice focus on creating environments that support health and well-being, led the UW academic team for HAPPY II and worked in close collaboration with the UCC Research Office team including  Militza Bonet-Vazquez, MPH, and Al Castro, MS.

For more information, please contact Sam Dennis,


Men’s Wellness

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Walnut Way Conservation Corps
No Longer an Island: Creating a Place-Based Men’s Peer Outreach and Social Support Network

The Lindsay Heights neighborhood is a predominately African American community in Milwaukee’s Central City that encompasses zip codes 53205 and 53206. Home to Walnut Way Conservation Corp, the community is abundant with assets, but also faces numerous challenges. None of these challenges are more pressing than the barriers to well-being and family engagement that men in this community face. For the past 12 years, Walnut Way has worked to restore connections and reengage residents in building a healthy community. As a neighborhood with nearly 40% of residents under 18, we believe it is imperative to engage fathers in our efforts to restore and strengthen our families. Increasingly, Walnut Way’s focus has centered on engaging men in ways that value their skills and provide avenues for productivity and service.

Walnut Way received funding in 2013 to support a 3-year large-scale implementation to scale up a place-based peer outreach and mentorship network that addresses critical community outcomes including increasing community and family engagement, social support, and self-worth of African American fathers and men.  Ultimately, the endeavor aims to reduce stress in African American men to increase their ability to engage with their families and improve birth outcomes.

Formed from Walnut Way’s leadership in successfully building a community-driven, place-based approach to neighborhood revitalization and is informed by the recommendations of the Lindsay Heights Men’s Wellness Council (MWC.) Funded by a WPP development grant in partnership with UWM Zilber School of Public Health and the Center for Urban Population Health, the MWC is comprised of African American men who live, work, and serve in Lindsay Heights and who engaged in a 15-month process of facilitated discussions.

Lifted out of the MWC, the No Longer an Island project incorporates four social network interventions identified in the evidence base as linking social support to improve physical, mental and social health.  This initiative is not only informed by the empirical data and evidence base, but is developed by men and grassroots leaders in our neighborhood. The project team has now formed a new peer group of men with another to be launched this year, initiated a door-to-door outreach effort, and has building bridges with more community partners. The groundwork to form a strong neighborhood network of men has been laid, consequently building on the foundation of a strong community.

For more information, please contact Tyler Weber,

Updated October 2014