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Advocating for Health Equity in Austin

Just a few weeks ago, You’re the Cure advocates stood up for health equity and successfully advocated for securing additional funding for public health in Austin.

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hero_image_alt_text===Volunteer Testifying
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thumbnail_alt_text===Volunteers with City Manager

Austin City Council approved the city’s 2019 budget on a 10-1 vote. Within this budget, Austin Public Health (APH) will see an increase of $4.5 million for new programming in 2019, much of which will go to programs aimed at reducing health disparities and improving health equity, including those outlined below.

• Health Equity and Quality of Life Direct Service- $585,000 for the Health Equity Unit to hire six new staff to conduct health screenings, provide health education, and assist clients in accessing the care they need. The new staffing will include two teams of a nurse and community health worker to expand boots on the ground in underserved areas of the city and Travis County, as well as a program coordinator and public health educator. This funding will increase capacity under the expertise of current staff within the Health Equity Unit. Target areas will include communities of color with high rates of chronic disease and low rates of insurance. The goal of this program is to reduce disparate health outcomes among vulnerable African American, Asian American, and Hispanic populations by developing and implementing community-based, culturally specific, and risk-reduction intervention models. This funding was a joint recommendation from the Asian-American and African-American Quality of Life Commissions, and three of the Commissioners participated in our Austin Leaders with Heart cohort.

• Community Health Navigator- $150,000 for a Community Health Navigator to help historically underserved communities and those with high rates of chronic disease access the complex health care and social service system. This new position will help connect people to insurance coverage (Marketplace, Medicaid, Medicare, and our local Medical Assistance Program), as well as other safety-net programs like SNAP and local programs to help low-income Austinites. This recommendation came from the city’s Asian-American Quality of Life Commission.

• Enhanced Health Services- $175,000 for a Community Health Worker training program to fill gaps identified in state-level training programs currently available. $50,000 to provide health equity services for individuals affected by physical and mental health disparities. This is separate from the funding above going directly to the Health Equity Unit. $50,000 to target hard-to-reach populations to help them enroll in insurance coverage. Approximately one-third of Hispanic Austinites are uninsured. This is separate from the Navigator program above and is more specific to helping folks enroll in Marketplace coverage. This funding will go to a contractor, likely one that previously received federal Navigator grant funding which the Trump administration cut by about 90%. These were also recommendations from the Asian-American Quality of Life Commission.

• African-American Mental Health and Healthcare Outreach Services- This is the most fluid of the funding proposals in terms of the exact activities that will be conducted with the funding. The Director of APH let Shelby know that once the funding is included in the budget, her office will work closely with the African-American Quality of Life Commission to determine the specific activities that will have the most impact in reducing health disparities for the African-American community in Austin. The need for the funding has centered around the fact that African-Americans in Austin have higher rates of chronic disease, lower insurance rates, and report poorer mental health than white Austinites.

 

Volunteer with Mayor Pro Tem

LEADERS WITH HEART IN ACTION

This is a tremendous investment in health equity on the part of the city of Austin, and one that will help to create a healthier and more equitable city. Our Leaders With Heart: Policy Academy cohort spent hours of their time participating in meetings and trainings, meeting with city council members, and attending the council meetings and vote. A big thank you to Leaders with Heart advocates Kathryn Abercrombie and Amy Knop-Narbutis.

 

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