Washington's Health Equity Zones (HEZ) Initiative

About the Initiative

In 2021, Senate Bill 5052 created an important foundation for the Department of Health (DOH) to establish the Health Equity Zones Initiative. The initiative features geographically-based health equity zones – places where people face social, environmental, and low-resource conditions that negatively impact their health.

The zones are selected by a statewide community advisory council; after being selected, each zone will implement community-driven decision-making processes to identify pressing health concerns and develop projects that address the unique needs of the zone. The initiative uses an impacted-led approach, recognizing that those most impacted by health inequities have the best understanding of the needs, strengths, and strategies to improve the health of their community.

Every two years, DOH is required to submit a report to the legislature on the progress of the initiative.

For regular updates on the selected zones and additional processes, visit the HEZ Initiative’s WA Portal site.

Creation of Health Equity Zones

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 supported the process of establishing a Community Advisory Council to lead the effort to select zones for the initiative. 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 2022 to guide the development of the HEZ Initiative. In June 2023, the Community Advisory Council met in person to select the initial urban and rural health equity zones. For information on the selected zones, visit the HEZ Initiative’s WA Portal site.

The selection process for the initial Zone for Native Communities is being developed by Tribal Community Representatives from the Community Advisory Council and a Review Panel of Native individuals who will assist in selection once the submission form opens. The submission form and selection process are anticipated to launch in February of 2024, and will be published on the WA Portal site. To receive up-to-date information, please sign up for the HEZ newsletter.

Each of the selected Health Equity Zones will be led by a cross-sector community collaborative that reflects the diverse makeup of the community. These collaboratives will lead community efforts to identify health priorities and actions that address these priorities. DOH will support the HEZ collaboratives in identifying funding and other resources that allow community-identified strategies to be implemented.

Participatory evaluation is being used to assess the impact of HEZ Initiative and make ongoing improvements.

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