Native American youth suffer disproportionately from a range of adverse health conditions. Empowering youth leaders to work on community-based solutions has proved effective in reducing tobacco use and gun violence and is now emerging as a promising approach to improving fitness and health. This article, based on direct observation and interviews with key informants, examines the implementation of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation–funded project that gave tribal youth councils minigrants to design and run diverse projects that encourage physical activity in their communities. The article highlights the institutional challenges that confront health-promotion strategies for disadvantaged populations. Unless they take proper account of organizational, political, environmental, and cultural forces, funders' interventions have limited chances for success and sustainability.

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Openly available online through the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.