Brownsville Collaborative Action Board (CAB)

Through the work of Brownsville Culture of Health Initative “health” has been elevated to a city-wide issue for this Texas border town. In 2014 Brownsville was awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize for their revitalization of an abandoned rail-line into a community bike trail, their “Imagine Brownsville” community-wide strategy, and “Tu Salud ¡Si Cuenta!” – a bilingual campaign to encourage physical activity and healthy food choices.

What are essential factors for cross-sector alignment?

Shared Purpose

  • The UT School of Public Health created the Community Advisory Board, now known as Collaborative Action Board (CAB), uniting members from the health field, business community, and government, education, and non-profit organizations to raise awareness of community health issues.
  • “Translational science and health disparities” has always been the “overreaching priority” and specific time-based priorities are decided every 2-3 years.


  • While the governance structure is pretty open, the coalition has multiple advisory boards and one leadership team; leadership team is elected. The leadership team sets the meeting agendas and runs meetings, while the actions of CAB are undertaken by subcommittees.
  • Quarterly meetings have been held since 2003 with members of 50 different organizations.
  • Members of CAB approach City Commission in individual capacity to lobby projects. CAB creates connection between different programs and serves as a voice for a unified culture of health.


  • University partners lead data-sharing efforts regarding epidemiological trends and outcomes.
  • University and clinic partners have a centralized database to share clinical data; health information exchange (HIE) facilitates this.

Finance and Sustainability

  • CAB launched with support from an NIH research grant to UTSPH; data has led to publications and additional federal and private foundation funding.
  • Coalition is “essentially unfunded,” so there isn’t competition over internal funding. The value of the coalition’s work is recognized by university, which supports sustainability.
  • They established a dedicated grant writing department and leverage partnerships and share resources between community organizations and businesses.

Integration of Health Equity

  • No formal definition for health equity
  • Looks at solutions through systems, policy, and environmental change
  • Tracks overall epidemiological trends based on state-level data for their region 
  • Prioritizes those who are more vulnerable or don’t have access

Community Trust and Accountability

  • CAB patient advisory board represents patient voice in decision-making with community-level data to assess health outcomes and goals
  • Brings authentic voice to the table by giving partners opportunities to present their own research and findings

Measures of Success

  • Quarterly monitoring of health outcomes at clinical level (A1c, blood pressure, etc.)

Outcomes Achieved

  • Named 2014 All-America City by the National Civil League and 
  • Awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s 2014 Culture of Health Prize 
  • Initiated change in smoking cessation policy
  • Successful sharing of data by partners