February 24, 2022
In February, Central Health will adopt a new Equity-focused Service Delivery Strategic Plan, which will serve as a blueprint for building a better health care system in Travis County for people who are uninsured and have low incomes. Adoption of the strategic plan coincides with Black History Month’s 2022 theme: health and wellness.
The plan identifies 14 distinct regions in Travis County— many of which are comprised primarily of communities of color and have been historically underserved when it comes to health care needs.
For example, 74% of Travis County residents with incomes at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Income Level (FPIL) are concentrated along the I-35 corridor in communities such as Rundberg, Montopolis and Dove Springs. For a family of four, that equates to an annual income of less than $55,500, or $27,180 for an individual. Many of these residents are people of color with language and cultural differences that create barriers to accessing health care – compounding social inequities and injustice.
As the local public healthcare district, Central Health funds care for one in nine Travis County residents with low income. Many of the people we serve, especially those in the I-35 corridor and East Travis County, have fewer opportunities to access health care because demand outpaces supply – there are simply not enough doctors, dentists and health care facilities to serve the needs of the safety net population. Without drastic and decisive action, we will continue to lose health care providers through attrition, including retirement, faster than they can be replaced.
Central Health’s patients, about 140,000 annually, have higher-than-average rates of untreated chronic conditions due to limited access to preventative care and a lack of coordination among providers. Consistent medical information exchange between health care providers and facilities would create more seamless patient care. Add to this fact, thousands of our patients lack a permanent address, underscoring the need for a concentrated, sustained, and long-overdue focus on health care equity in our community.
Central Health’s Equity-focused Service Delivery Strategic Plan will build a better health care system to address inequities which shorten the lives of our patient populations – including communities of color. The plan will address:
- Recruiting more providers to address areas with doctor and provider shortages including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and obstetrician-gynecologists, as well as most specialty clinical practices;
- Employing more diverse health care practitioners to address social barriers, including language and culture; and
- Other areas of health care, including mental health, substance abuse, dental health and social barriers.
So, as we celebrate Black History Month, Central Health is getting to work addressing generational systemic racism in our health care system and building toward our vision of creating a model healthy community – for everyone. We must identify the areas where we are falling short and fix the problem. It is our obligation to the people we care for and Travis County taxpayers who fund our mission.
Charles E. Bell, M.D., M.S., is the Board Chairperson for Central Health, Travis County’s publicly funded healthcare district.