CRI LEP with El Rio, Tucson, AZ

Racial and ethnic minorities experience health disparities that can decrease quality of life, contribute to poverty, and impact the overall health and well-being of the nation. In the culturally diverse communities of Tucson, Arizona, Hispanics are on average 10 years younger when they die than non-Hispanic whites.¹


Canyon Ranch Institute and the El Rio Community Health Center (El Rio) partnered in 2010 to begin developing a Canyon Ranch Institute Life Enhancement Program (CRI LEP). The program aims to eliminate health disparities and empower people in Tucson’s economically disadvantaged communities to prevent chronic disease and embrace a life of wellness.

For over 40 years, the El Rio Community Health Center has provided accessible medical and dental care to minority populations in the Tucson community. El Rio has become one of the largest non-profit, community health centers in the United States, serving over 1,000 people a day, with over 70 percent of those served living at or below the federal poverty level.

The CRI LEP with El Rio began with funding from the Zuckerman Family Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and is rapidly becoming a self-sustaining effort through El Rio Community Health Center. Through the Zuckerman Family Foundation, Mel and Enid Zuckerman, founders of Canyon Ranch and Canyon Ranch Institute, are committed to serving the Tucson community where Canyon Ranch and Canyon Ranch Institute were founded.

“Enid and I have made Tucson our happy home for 52 years,” says Mel. “Our families – both the Zuckerman Family and the Canyon Ranch Family – are part of Tucson’s history and future. Through this new program with El Rio, our hope is to reach even more people in our community than ever before. Canyon Ranch and Canyon Ranch Institute improve lives one person at a time by opening up a world of health and hope, and we are ready to take this exciting step with El Rio. We will continue to learn and grow together.”

How We’re Making a Difference

The CRI LEP with El Rio aims to eliminate health disparities by reducing risk factors for chronic disease, advancing health literacy, and providing tools so individuals can choose to live a life of wellness.

In spring 2011, Core Team members from the CRI LEP with El Rio program completed training at the Canyon Ranch Life Enhancement Center in Tucson. Members from Canyon Ranch Institute and Core Team members then collaborated to participate in a three-day Bridge Practicum to customize the CRI LEP with El Rio in a manner that is culturally and linguistically appropriate to and successful in Tucson.

The first group of CRI LEP with El Rio participants started in summer 2011 at the El Pueblo Regional Neighborhood Center, which is co-located with the new state-of-the-art 26,000-square-foot El Rio Health Center that opened in December 2010. The program has been conducted in Spanish and in English. Graduates of the CRI LEP in El Rio participate in regular in-person support activities hosted by El Rio.


Canyon Ranch Institute evaluates the CRI LEP’s effectiveness across the entire scope of our integrative model of health. We measure the impact of addressing health literacy in regard to participants’ changes in nutrition, physical activity, physical health, knowledge, stress, and attitudes. Results from the Canyon Ranch Institute Life Enhancement Program indicate participants experience a number of healthy changes. Data reveals participants adopted healthier behaviors, lost weight, are less depressed, know more about health, lowered their blood pressure, increased ability to manage stress and pain, and make healthier food and portion choices.

¹2008 County Profiles Monitoring Progress Toward Healthy Arizona 2010 Objectives, Arizona Department of Health Services.