MD Anderson's Be Well Baytown

Be Well Communities are an MD Anderson Cancer Center place-based initiative for cancer prevention and control focused on healthy eating, active living, sun safety, tobacco-free living, and preventative care. Be Well Baytown brings this initiative to Baytown, TX – a community on the southeast side of Houston.

What factors are essential for effective cross-sector alignment?

Shared Purpose

  • Be Well Baytown engages communities to create and advance community-based strategies and increase cancer risk reduction behaviors in preventative care, physical activity, diet, UVR exposure, and tobacco use.
  • The coalition first began as a healthy communities initiative and conducted various needs assessments to identify community gaps in cancer research and practice.
  • The coalition takes a “place-based approach to community and social impact” and recognizes that “dissolution of self-interest” is necessary to “meet each other where they are.” The goal is to “reduce the gap between what people know and what people do” in terms of cancer prevention.


  • MD Anderson serves as the backbone organization and is responsible for providing vision to the initiative.
  • Twenty-three organizations participate in monthly steering committee meetings. The steering committee is composed of leaders in the community that guide planning, support implementation, and influence wellness.


  • Be Well Baytown is part of the Cancer Prevention & Control Platform within the Moon Shots Program. The platform is guided by the ideology that research advances in cancer medicine must be shared widely and translated into health systems and communities.
  • All participating organizations have a workplan with measurable objectives; this data is shared with all.

Finance and Sustainability

  • A major corporation (EXXON Mobil) from the area provides substantial funding through a $10 million gift to support the program through 2024. MD Anderson is responsible for an exit strategy and long-term sustainability.
  • Successful interventions “were picked up by a public budget” to ensure sustainability.

Integration of Health Equity

  • Embedded in their scientific impact and vision
  • Funds proposals that “check the box for health equity” 
  • Measures equity through health outcomes relative to highest need within the community

Community Trust and Accountability

  • Requires partnering organizations to leave individual agendas at the door
  • Shows early wins and rigorous research and data outcomes 
  • Reports to steering committee who has earned a reputation for “getting stuff done”

Measures of Success

  • A 25-point scale on collected impact at three levels (program-level, collective impact, community impact)

Outcomes Achieved

  • Established a food ecosystem 
  • Distributed 4 million pounds of food directly impacting 80% of the community
  • Recognized by CDC as a model town for skin cancer prevention policy