Media Contact: Yuri Gonzalez
Phone: (956) 310-2139
Email: [email protected]

City of Pharr Awarded Healthy Brain Initiative Grant to Address Brain Health

City of Pharr Awarded HBI Grant  (Pictured L to R): Commissioner Bobby Carrillo, Commissioner Dr. Ramiro Caballero, Commissioner Michael Pacheco, Mayor Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez, Maxine P. Vieyra, South Texas Alzheimer’s Program Manager, Gregory Sciuto, Region 7 Leader and Executive Director, San Antonio & South Texas, Dr. Cynthia Gutierrez, the Director of Public Health for the City of Pharr, Commissioner Daniel Chavez, and Commissioner Ricardo Medina. 



Pharr, Texas – The City of Pharr was selected by the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) for the Healthy Brain Initiative (HBI) Road Map Strategists. The announcement and grant presentation was made during the City of Pharr’s Commission Meeting on Monday, February 5, 2024.

Maxine P. Vieyra, South Texas Alzheimer’s Program Manager, and Gregory Sciuto, Region 7 Leader and Executive Director, San Antonio & South Texas, presented the grant to the city commission. Dr. Cynthia Gutierrez, the Director of Public Health for the City of Pharr’s newly created Public Health Department accepted the grant on behalf of the city and spoke about the importance of the project and her role in securing the grant. The initiative will allow the City of Pharr to enhance its capacity to address cognitive health and dementia for the citizens of Pharr.
“We are grateful for this amazing opportunity to work closely with our citizens and community to address brain health in our community,” said Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, M.D. “Our goal is to help make a difference and work towards educating, informing, and creating healthy habits for Alzheimer’s awareness,” he added. “It is an honor to be the only city chosen in Texas and we look forward to being a model for our local, regional, and national communities on this project,” continued Hernandez. 
Through this initiative, the City of Pharr will designate a part-time HBI Road Map Strategist, a systems change agent working to advance brain health equity. Working in support and coordination with public health partners across the community, the Road Map Strategist will conduct a public health needs assessment, train local officials and key community partners, and lead the implementation of public health action on dementia, guided by strategies from the Healthy Brain Initiative State and Local Road Map for Public, 2023-2028.
“We are proud to partner with the Pharr Department of Health on the Healthy Brain Initiative. Everyone deserves a life with the healthiest brain possible. Together, we take on the important work of increasing public knowledge about brain health, risk factors for dementia, and the benefits of early detection and diagnosis, all while advancing equity in our community,” said Gregory Sciuto, Region 7 Leader and Executive Director, Texas Alzheimer’s Association San Antonio & South Texas. 

The City of Pharr was one of ten grantees in the cohort. Other recipients included: 

  • Panhandle Public Health District (Nebraska)
  • Lamar County Health Department (Georgia)
  • Oneida County Health Department (Wisconsin)
  • Waukesha County Public Health (Wisconsin)
  • Nelson-Griggs District Health Unit (North Dakota)
  • Northeast Tri County Health District (Washington)
  • Kitsap Public Health District (Washington)
  • Clay County Health Department (Illinois)
  • Davis County Health Department (Utah)

People living with dementia and their family caregivers require support as cognitive, behavioral, and physical functioning changes over time. A strategic public health response is needed to mitigate this impact on all communities, and the addition of the HBI Strategist will help to improve the City of Pharr’s response.

“In 2022, there were more than 1 million unpaid caregivers who provided care to Texans with Alzheimer’s, most of whom were family members,” said Emilie Prot DO MPH, Regional Medical Director, Public Health Region 11 Texas Department of State Health Services. “I want to congratulate the City of Pharr Health Department for their grant award,” she continued. “Their important initiative will bring awareness and educate our community about Alzheimer’s Disease to understand the burden and connect families to resources,” Dr. Prot added. 

The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s is growing — and growing fast. More than 6 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s.

An estimated 6.7 million Americans age 65 and older were living with Alzheimer’s in 2023. Seventy-three percent are age 75 or older.

  • About 1 in 9 people age 65 and older (10.7%) has Alzheimer’s.
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
  • Older Black Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older Whites.

Older Hispanics are about one and one-half times as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older Whites.