Central Health EQUITY POLICY COUNCIL
The Central Health Equity Policy (CHEP) Council was established in 2015, comprising representatives from over 80 community partners who came together to advocate for innovative clinical and public policies to reduce health disparities for Austin-Travis County residents with incomes at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. Since its inception, the CHEP Council has successfully implemented various policy initiatives aimed at improving the health of the communities they serve.
Currently, the Council comprises three active committees:
- The Race Equity Committee (REC) and the Pandemic Equity Committee (PEC) were established to address race and ethnicity disparities during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) Committee works with medical service providers in Travis County to promote inclusivity and affirm the LGBTQIA+ community.
Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) Committee
The Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) Committee is a group of passionate community experts who work together on the HEI regional initiative. The committee is dedicated to advancing equitable LGBTQIA+ healthcare in Travis County.
The initiative launched in August 2022 with the support of several community partners and an inaugural cohort of three healthcare providers in Central Texas. The cohort works collaboratively to fulfill the requirements for the HEI designation, which evaluates healthcare facilities’ policies and practices related to the equity and inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community. In addition to developing the HEI framework, the committee is engaging healthcare systems, establishing milestones, and creating a strategic plan for the campaign.
The Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) is the national LGBTQ+ benchmarking tool that evaluates healthcare facilities' policies and practices related to the equity and inclusion of their LGBTQ+ patients, visitors and employees. The HEI 2022 evaluates more than 2,200 healthcare facilities nationwide.
PANDEMIC EQUITY COMMITTEE
The Pandemic Equity Committee was formed by the CHEP Council in December 2020 to assess pandemic health outcomes, prioritize equity in disaster planning, and provide recommendations for historically marginalized groups in Travis County.
The committee presented its recommendations to the Austin City Council, which adopted a resolution directing staff to implement policies that promote more equitable outcomes for People of Color, including Asian American, Black, Indigenous, and Hispanic/Latino communities, and other historically marginalized populations in Travis County.
The PEC continues to work collaboratively with authorities to address the challenges faced by marginalized populations, with a particular focus on improving language access and cultural competencies.
Language Access Efforts -- Limited English proficiency is a major barrier to accessing health services for many at-risk individuals and can pose significant threats to safety during an emergency. The Pandemic Equity Committee actively works with Austin City and Travis County authorities to explore and advocate for options to address and improve language access for members of our community.
RACE EQUITY COMMITTEE
The Race Equity Research Committee plays a crucial role in evaluating policies developed by the CHEP Council. Their primary responsibility is to ensure that policies are evaluated with a race and ethnicity health equity lens and that they promote racial equity based on established best practices in the field and lived experiences.
These members come from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, including medicine, public health, education, business, social work, policy advancement, capacity development, and race and ethnicity justice. By leveraging their collective knowledge and skills, the committee strives to ensure that policies are equitable and inclusive for all members of the community.
Race and Ethnicity Equity Policy Toolkit - In an effort to encourage safety net providers and government entities in Travis County to adopt recognized best practices across their organizations to foster race equity, the Race Equity Committee will design, develop, and disseminate a Race Equity Policy and Advocacy Toolkit to partner organizations. This toolkit will guide organizations in fostering inclusivity and race equity which will be able to better serve the diverse Travis County community.
NOTABLE INITIATIVES & ACHIEVEMENTS
Language Access Efforts
Limited English proficiency poses a significant barrier for at-risk individuals to access health services and can threaten their safety during emergencies. The Pandemic Equity Committee recognizes this challenge and collaborates with Austin City and Travis County authorities to explore and advocate for solutions to improve language access for members of the community. The committee's active involvement demonstrates a commitment to equity and inclusivity and ensures that at-risk individuals are not left behind during emergencies. By addressing language barriers, the committee is working towards creating a more equitable society where all individuals have equal access to healthcare services, regardless of their language proficiency.
Race and Ethnicity Equity Policy Toolkit
The Race Equity Committee aims to promote the adoption of recognized best practices by safety net providers and government entities to foster race equity and inclusivity. To achieve this objective, the committee will create a Race Equity Policy and Advocacy Toolkit that will be disseminated to partner organizations. The toolkit will provide guidance on how to design, develop and implement policies that promote inclusivity and race equity, enabling organizations to better serve the diverse Travis County community. This initiative demonstrates a commitment to promoting equity and inclusivity and is an essential step toward creating a more equitable society for all.
Healthcare Equality Index Initiative
The Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) is a crucial benchmarking tool that assesses healthcare facilities' policies and practices regarding LGBTQ+ equity and inclusion for patients, visitors, and employees. HEI 2022 evaluates over 2,200 healthcare facilities across the country.
The CHEP Council HEI Committee works alongside several organizations, including Central Health, CommUnity Care, and Integral Care, to assist with the implementation and evaluation of HEI policies and practices.
Their objective is to ensure that these organizations have the necessary resources to achieve the highest HEI designation. In summary, HEI is a significant tool that promotes the advancement of equitable and inclusive healthcare for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Download HEI One-Pager
Austin Breathes Vape-Free Air: Ban on Electronic Smoking Devices
The CHEP Council's first initiative was proposing to add e-cigarettes to the Smoking in Public Places Ordinance (SIPPO) due to concerns over their potential health effects and negative impact on public health. After community outreach and discussions, the council successfully passed a 2017 City of Austin ordinance prohibiting electronic smoking devices anywhere smoking is prohibited, including public places like restaurants, bars, and parks. The passing of this ordinance not only improves public health but also helps to create a more equitable community by reducing exposure to harmful chemicals and protecting the health of all individuals, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
HIV Opt-out Policy
The Central Health Equity Policy Council urged Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and other clinics in Travis County to adopt opt-out screening for HIV to improve patient care. An economic analysis conducted by the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs showed that implementing opt-out screening costs $2.61 more per patient but gains an additional 28 quality-adjusted life years and diagnoses 1.25 new infections per 7,000 new patients in one year. This analysis was a significant step in promoting the opt-out screening policy, which makes it easier to identify HIV infections and link patients to treatment.
Access to Unstructured Playtime/ Recess Policy
The CHEP Council launched the recess policy initiative in 2017 to address the inequality in unstructured playtime among low-income schools. Research demonstrates that unstructured playtime during recess is crucial for the development of healthy children, but many low-income schools have been unable to provide adequate recess time for their students.
For this initiative, the CHEP Council collaborated with independent school districts in Manor and Leander to advocate for policies that would ensure at least 30 minutes of supervised recess time for elementary school students. The policy’s implementation is a major CHEP Council achievement in promoting overall health and well-being for low-income students.