MD Anderson launches community-led Be Well™ Acres Homes initiative

With the launch of Be Well™ Acres Homes, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center unites more than 30 organizations, alongside community members, to promote wellness and reduce the risk for cancer and other chronic diseases.

The initiative is part of MD Anderson’s Be Well Communities™ model, a place-based strategy that narrows the gap between known cancer prevention tactics and successful implementation. Be Well Acres Homes will apply evidence-based strategies within the northwest Houston community to promote physical activity, healthy eating and other behaviors that can have a direct impact on health.

“We are proud to join together with the Acres Homes community to make a greater impact on more people in the service of our mission to end cancer,” said Peter WT Pisters, M.D., president of MD Anderson. “By collaborating with a broad range of committed community members, organizations and other stakeholders and by prioritizing a definitive investment in public health, Be Well Acres Homes has the potential to help create positive, long-lasting change in people’s lives.”   

MD Anderson’s new Strategy calls for reaching more people, and part of this involves partnering with others to promote cancer prevention in the community setting, an aim that will be accomplished through Be Well Acres Homes. In its first two years, Be Well Acres Homes aims to build sustainable food systems and increase access to healthy food, improve spaces for physical activity, create a network of community and school-based gardens, and provide culturally-adapted nutrition education.

The Be Well Acres Homes action plan was developed with and for the community, in alignment with the Houston Complete Communities initiative, a City of Houston program focused on bridging the gap between equity and opportunity in 10 historically under-resourced neighborhoods, including Acres Homes.

“Complete Communities is the signature initiative of my administration and is focused on creating the road map to economic opportunity, deep community investment and improved health across our region,” City of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “The vitality of our city and the health of our community are everyone’s responsibilities, especially in neighborhoods where opportunity is not equal. MD Anderson’s demonstrated commitment to lead in a highly collaborative, community-minded way is a model for our city. We are thrilled for this social impact initiative with MD Anderson and look forward to advancing this effort in Acres Homes.”

Be Well Acres Homes is executed in collaboration with Harris Health System, Memorial Hermann Community Benefit Corporation, UTHealth School of Public Health, and more than 30 community organizations that make up the Be Well Acres Homes Steering Committee, together with residents of Acres Homes. The full list of collaborators is available online.

The initiative is supported by MD Anderson’s Community Outreach and Engagement Fund along with its Cancer Prevention and Control platform, which is part of the institution’s Moon Shots Program™, an ambitious effort to reduce cancer deaths by accelerating and implementing advances in prevention, early detection and treatment based on scientific discoveries.

Additional support for Be Well Acres Homes is being provided by a $1 million grant from the Walmart Foundation to The University of Texas Foundation. Those funds will support MD Anderson’s implementation of sustainable, neighborhood-based food security strategies through Be Well Communities.

Research estimates that up to half of cancers are preventable through consistent healthy lifestyle choices, including exercising, avoiding tobacco, limiting alcohol, eating a balanced diet, maintaining an appropriate weight, looking after your skin, getting cancer prevention vaccines, getting cancer screening exams and discussing your family history with your doctor.

A recent study published in Cancer Causes & Control demonstrated that Be Well Communities provides an effective framework to implement and measure population-based public health approaches. The inaugural community for this model, Be Well Baytown, exceeded its objectives, including increasing access to healthy foods and increasing physical activity among students. The 20 initial projects underway in Acres Homes focus on active living and diet, two areas prioritized by community members and health leaders.

“It is a privilege for MD Anderson to work with leaders across our community to implement an intentional and collaborative approach to advancing health in Greater Houston,” Pisters said. “Be Well Acres Homes demonstrates MD Anderson’s commitment to accelerating the impact of evidence-based strategies that improve health, address health disparities and advance health equity. We are honored and humbled to lead this work, and excited to see the results in the coming years.”

To learn more about Be Well Acres Homes, visit