Community-driven solutions to local health inequities
Differences in neighborhood conditions, often referred to as social determinants of health, can influence who is healthy, who is sick, and who lives longer. Communities of color, low-income communities, and people in areas with limited access to health care are disproportionately impacted by health inequities, yet their voices, experiences, strengths, and cultural knowledge are often not centered in decision-making.
In 2021, Senate Bill 5052 created an important foundation for the Department of Health (DOH) to support communities in identifying geographically-based health equity zones, places where people have faced more limited access to health care and other conditions that negatively impact their health. Each zone will identify pressing health concerns and develop projects to address that zone’s unique needs.
The Health Equity Zones Initiative supports communities in effecting change at a local level by shifting decision-making to those who live and work in those communities. The initiative will challenge the systems and structures that perpetuate health inequities and build collaborative networks for collective action.
Read more about the principles that guide this work (PDF).
- Creation of Health Equity Zones
Phase 1: Planning
In July 2021, DOH started engaging with agency and community partners to initiate the development of the Health Equity Zones Initiative.
The first year emphasized partner engagement and community-centered processes to build a sustainable foundation for the initiative. DOH is also looking for continued funding and other resources that can support the future of Washington's Health Equity Zones.
Phase 2: Development
DOH supported the process of establishing a Community Advisory Council to lead the effort to select zones for the initiative. The first step involved sharing information about the initiative and the council in multiple languages to community members across the state.
Community members then led the process of selecting community representatives to serve on the council. DOH staff played a supporting role and provided technical assistance throughout the process. In response to feedback from people involved in the process, DOH also created a Community Workgroup with open membership to facilitate more community input on the HEZ Initiative.
The Community Advisory Council and Community Workgroup convened in April and May 2022, respectively, to guide the development of the HEZ Initiative. See below for more information on the Community Advisory Council and the Community Workgroup.
Phase 3: Implementation
The implementation of the selected Health Equity Zones is anticipated to start in early 2023. Each Health Equity Zone will be led by a cross-sector community collaborative that reflects the diverse makeup of the community. Using data and support from DOH staff, these collaboratives will receive ongoing technical assistance to identify health priorities and implement projects that improve the health of their communities.
- Community-Driven Leadership
Community Advisory Council
The purpose of the Health Equity Zones Community Advisory Council is to convene community, tribal, and sector leaders to establish the foundation of the Health Equity Zones Initiative. This group ensures efforts are community-centered and health equity-driven, with focused attention given to communities experiencing the greatest health inequities. Community representatives will also help identify and shape stories that provide insight on the health inequities facing communities in Washington, and the public health data that document how these groups are disproportionately impacted.
The Community Advisory Council is tasked with developing selection criteria for the Health Equity Zones and identifying 2-3 zones across the state by Fall 2022. There are 25 seats on the HEZ Community Advisory Council, including community representatives, tribal partners, and sector representatives. The sectors represented are Accountable Communities of Health, local health jurisdictions, the Governor’s Interagency Council on Health Disparities, and the philanthropic community.
Alexander Grace Vickery
Tribal Partner, Western Washington
Sector Rep., Local Health Jurisdiction
Tribal Partner, At-Large
Sector Rep., Local Health Jurisdiction
Sector Rep., Accountable Communities of Health
Tribal Partner, Urban
Sector Rep., Governor’s Interagency Council on Health Disparities
Tribal Partner, Eastern Washington
Sector Rep., Philanthropy
In addition to the Community Advisory Council, DOH convened a Community Workgroup to facilitate more avenues for community members to engage with the HEZ Initiative. The Community Workgroup will provide guidance to the Community Advisory Council on key decision points by ensuring the stories and knowledge of community members experiencing the greatest health inequities are centered in the HEZ Initiative development process.
The Community Workgroup has open membership and meets monthly. There is no formal commitment to participate on the Workgroup, but members are encouraged to engage to the best of their ability to provide input ahead of key decision points. Active members of the Community Workgroup can anticipate participation to be around 4 hours each month.
The Community Workgroup meets virtually on the second Thursday of each month from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. For new members, an orientation will be held at 12:30pm before each meeting to provide an overview of the HEZ Initiative. Please contact Brianne.Ramos@doh.wa.gov to receive a calendar invite with instructions on how to join meetings.
Presentation slides (PDF) from past Community Advisory Council meetings:
Find detailed information about the Community Advisory Council selection criteria, role responsibilities, and time commitment (PDF). (Note: The Community Advisory Council is no longer accepting nominations.)
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about the Health Equity Zones Initiative or would like to access this information in a language other than English.