CENTRAL HEALTH EQUITY POLICY COUNCIL
Launched in 2015 with over 80 community partners, the Central Health Equity Policy (CHEP) Council members champion clinical and public policy aimed at reducing health disparities for Austin-Travis County residents at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.
Since 2017, the CHEP Council has successfully advocated for a City of Austin ordinance to prohibit electronic smoking devices anywhere smoking is prohibited, helped implement a recess policy to ensure all students have access to unstructured play time in several independent school districts and worked with health providers to adopt an HIV opt-out policy to catch and treat HIV sooner.
During the pandemic, two committees were formed to address racial and pandemic equity. The Race Equity Committee is creating a menu of policies centered on race, ethnicity, and health equity. The committee is also developing a tool to analyze policies using a race equity lens. The Pandemic Equity Committee created a memo for the Austin City Council and Travis County’s Commissioners Court that provides recommendations to center equity and historically excluded populations in their disaster preparedness, response and post-disaster healing. Austin City Council unanimously adopted a resolution directing City staff to incorporate some of the policy recommendations from the memo.
The two committees are ongoing as the CHEP Council prepares to launch its fifth initiative of making healthcare more inclusive and affirming to the LGBTQIA+ community by working with providers to attain the Healthcare Equality Index designation.
Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) Committee
The Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) Committee includes passionate community experts that work together on the HEI campaign to meet a deep and urgent need for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual, and queer Americans: the need for equitable, knowledgeable, sensitive and welcoming health care, free from discrimination. The HEI initiative was chosen by the Central Health Equity Policy (CHEP) Council in 2019 for the 2020 campaign. The launch of the campaign was scheduled for March 2020; just as the pandemic hit the United States. This campaign was put on hold for the better part of two years.
In January 2020, the committee reconvened and began work. Members of the HEI committee work together and help develop the framework, bring healthcare systems on board and develop milestones and a strategic plan for the HEI campaign. The committee launched the campaign with a press conference in August 2022. CommUnityCare, the largest safety net provider serving Travis County with 28 clinics and Integral Care, the mental and behavioral health authority for Travis County with 40 facilities, publicly pledged to pursue the tenants of the HEI during this press event.
Download the Healthcare Equality Index Campaign White Paper
Pandemic Equity Committee
The Central Health Equity Policy (CHEP) Council convened the Pandemic Equity Committee in December 2020 to assess pandemic-related health outcomes and develop recommendations that can help lead to more equitable outcomes for People of Color, including Asian American, Black, Indigenous and Hispanic/Latino Communities, and other historically marginalized populations. The committee identified policies and best practices for centering disaster planning and response on equity. Austin City Council unanimously adopted a resolution directing City staff to implement policy recommendations.
The Committee put forward a memorandum to Austin City Council and the Travis County Commissioners Court outlining recommendations for three categories:
- Disaster preparedness
- Disaster response
- Post-disaster recovery
Race Equity Committee
The Race Equity Committee is creating a menu of policies centered on race, ethnicity, and health equity. The committee is also developing a tool to analyze policies using a race equity lens to foster racial equity and future prosperity for People of Color and underserved groups.
The committee is responsible for ensuring future policies are evaluated with a racial and health equity lens to address racial disparities and create an intentional practice of changing policies. The committee develops criteria that will be applied to all potential policies during the evaluation process that the CHEP Council pursues as initiatives.
Austin Breathes Vape Free Air (2016-2017)
As their first initiative, the CHEP Council worked on and successfully passed a City of Austin ordinance in 2017 to prohibit electronic smoking devices anywhere smoking is prohibited.
Recess Policy (2017-2018)
The CHEP Council took up its second initiative around recess policy in 2017. Building on the momentum of Austin ISD adopting a model recess policy, the CHEP Council advocated for recess policies in the Manor and Leander ISDs.
HIV Screening Opt-Out Policy (2018-2019)
In 2018, the CHEP Council kicked off its third initiative, which centered around implementing an HIV screening opt-out policy at safety-net provider clinics in Travis County. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends testing all health care patients for HIV––regardless of their reported risk behaviors––using an “opt–out” approach in which patients are informed that an HIV test will be conducted unless they explicitly decline to be tested.
The CHEP Council worked with the following providers to successfully adopt, implement, or strengthen the screening policy: St. David’s South Austin Medical Center El Buen Samaritano People’s Community Clinic CommUnityCare The coalition also partnered with the University of Texas LBJ students who created an algorithm that determines the cost of screening for healthcare systems, how many more years of life are saved by the additional screening and quality of life-years adjusted.