Our History

Foundation for Healthy Generations was created in 1974 as Comprehensive Health Education Foundation (CHEF) by a handful of passionate volunteers comprised of some of the leading professional health educators in Washington State. Dedicated to the advancement of health through education, their vision was decades before its time. By developing and publishing innovative health education curricula solidly grounded in the best thinking of the time, CHEF both changed the lives of millions of people at targeted points along the life span and generated enough program revenue to create an investment fund to engage in promoting school health through programs, conferences, scholarships, professional development, advocacy, trainings and grants. As a self-sustaining nonprofit, CHEF grew to provide programs, curricula and resources in support of Early Learning, School-Aged Youth and Older Adults. Some of the nationally and internationally distributed curricula include:

  • Here's Looking at You®, a drug prevention and education curriculum
  • Natural Helpers®
  • Here's Looking at AIDS and You™ (later retitled Get Real about AIDS®)
  • Here's Looking at You, Two®: in 1985, First Lady Nancy Reagan visited Island Elementary School in Mercer Island, WA, to observe a class using the Here's Looking at You, Two® curriculum
  • Get Real about Violence®, a comprehensive violence-prevention program.
  • Get Real about Tobacco®.
  • Calming Ourselves in Stressful Moments™, an interactive training program that helps early childhood caregivers, teachers, parents, and children manage stress
  • Healthy Beginnings™, a training for childcare providers
  • Rx for Communication®, a program designed to help older adults get the most from their health care providers
  • Social Beginnings®, a program to encourage prosocial skills in early childhood
  • Youth Matters®, a modular discussion-based prevention program for creating healthy schools and communities
  • The FUEL™ series, the first youth-inspired educational approach to fighting the obesity epidemic affecting America’s youth today
  • The Chill™ series, a product that empowers teens in grades 7–12 to recognize the stress in their lives and manage it effectively.
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CHEF founders intentionally chose to incorporate as a501(c)(3) public charity as opposed to a private foundation in order to have greater latitude for direct engagement in policy and advocacy work. CHEF has been a national leader in this field, providing support for dramatic results through working with partners to secure $5.4 billion in federal appropriations and advocating for state level policies and appropriations for school health and substance abuse prevention.

CHEF has also always served as a critical convener, bringing people together to create impressive partnerships that foster high leverage results. In 1989, we developed and hosted the First Northwest Wellness Conference for Seniors. In 1995, the Washington State Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse awarded us a two-year contract to coordinate the state substance-abuse prevention conference. We also hosted the First Annual National Prevention Institute (later renamed the National Prevention Symposium™) in 1996, the 20th Annual Washington State Health Education Conference in 1999, and the 10th Annual Northwest Wellness Conference for Seniors in 1999. In 1997, CHEF received the National Recognition Award from American Association for Health Education for Distinguished Service to Health Education Award. In 2000, we launched the Institutes on School Health and Fitness in partnership with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Association of Washington School Principals.

In April 2005, we announced that Discovery Education, a division of Discovery Communications, Inc., acquired intellectual property rights for six of our school-aged youth prevention products. This sale allowed for expanded reach of these highly respected curriculum programs into schools using the latest in video streaming technology. It also gave us the opportunity to expand our mission-focused work, continue to give back to the communities we serve within Washington state and nationally, and incubate new products and programs.

In 2007, based on a tremendous need for health and prevention education among our country’s underserved populations, we announced an evolution in our focus designed to concentrate a portion of our resources on health education to help prevent and reduce major health inequities across ethnic, racial, and income groups in the form of ten year Place Based Health Initiative focused in Clark, Pierce, and Spokane counties within our home state of Washington.

The 2007 Place Based Health Initiative creates healthy opportunities for people most affected by health inequities through advocacy, education, grantmaking, and partnerships. It focused specifically on establishing public housing developments as model healthy communities where it is the norm for people to be physically active, eat healthy, know and connect with their neighbors, and advocate for change in the systems and policies that affect their community. Public housing residents and community members have partnered with us to incubate a unique adoption of the Community Health Worker (CHW) model in which residents are trained and provided ongoing support and resources to enhance their own natural helper tendencies in the form of CHWs as a trusted family, friend and neighbor. There is a broad and diverse range of proven CHW models in Washington and around the country. We are dedicated to support of the CHW movement due to the strong promise and research showing the results both in ROI of dollars and improved health outcomes when a trusted community member is engaged in linking medical and other institutional infrastructure with community members.

In 2009, CHEF contracted with the Washington Department of Health to provide technical support to public housing authorities statewide on the adoption of no smoking policies. It has been well documented that second hand smoke poses a serious health risk to all residents of a building in which smoking occurs. Public housing residents often disproportionately include those more highly vulnerable to these health risks.  As of July, 2014, 32 out of the 38 public housing authorities in Washington have adopted such policies. Supportive work on cessation continues and we now have expanded our reach to include landlords in the Section 8 market.

In 2012, the agency came under the leadership of our current Executive Director, Melanie Gillespie. In partnership with our key constituencies, we refined our mission to focus exclusively on health equity, updating our mission statement to “create enduring health equity.”

In 2013, we launched our new strategic plan to activate, elevate and inform community voice, accelerate its strength through shared learning and hope-filled action, and thereby transform community conditions for health. As part of our new plan, we have provided an intentionally strategic combination of private grant funds, privately funded technical expertise and publicly funded intensive multiyear facilitation and technical assistance, in partnership with the Washington Department of Health, to the development of the Healthy Living Collaborative (HLC) of SW Washington, a 41 member cross sector collective impact collaborative in Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania, and Wahkiakum Counties that includes public health, social and human services, K-12 education and early learning, higher education, faith communities, public housing, homelessness, clinical services, behavioral health, the environment, and criminal justice. CHEF used its philanthropic funds to spark a Funders Collaborative in support of the HLC’s first project: a pilot in three neighborhoods of the peer to peer Community Health worker model developed by CHEF in partnership with public housing residents earlier in its Place Based Health Initiative. The Funders Collaborative showcases impressive innovations by agreeing to use one common contract form, one common set of metrics and evaluation and one common reporting mechanism.

The HLC serves as a model to other communities about how to engage in regional coordination of locally driven action and also as a living laboratory for community, key decision makers and local, regional and state private and public funders to learn what it really takes to manifest effective, grassroots collective impact action.

In January of 2014, the agency launched the new ACEs Learning Institute to provide tools, resources and knowledge sharing both for advancement of our own work and that of the broader field. The Learning Institute focuses on providing leadership support and education concerning the critical bundle of research and emerging science including Neuroscience, Epigenetics, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Resilience (NEAR). We prioritize two interrelated roles:

  1. Capturing new knowledge as it emerges from the rapidly changing landscape of discovery;
  2. Translating that knowledge into practice via development/dissemination of tools and materials carefully crafted to help community leaders to create the conditions for enduring health equity.
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Because of our history and our current work, we have a unique opportunity to provide bi-directional leadership and support; our work within the community allows us to enhance community voice and deliver input at the systems and policy level. Our strategic leadership and relationships within our field then allows us to inform and provide knowledge back to the community. The notion of advocacy to promote resilience for the whole population in order to create a healthier society is a foundational element of our 40 year history.

In July of 2014 the new agency name, Foundation for Healthy Generations, was adopted by the Board; further reinforcing our commitment to creating health equity that will endure generation after generation and our strategic methodology of focusing on life course and multi-generational approaches. We are excited about this change, as it truly conveys who we have become and who we are today.

With a history of innovation, leadership, and success in our mission-focused work, Foundation for Healthy Generations has directly benefited the health and well-being of millions of people. As we look to the future, we're committed to helping millions more in the coming years.