Center for Health Equity


The Health Equity Collective celebrates 5 years of collective impact

Published: January 3, 2024

The Health Equity Collective pictured at their 5-year anniversary in-person quarterly meeting.
The Health Equity Collective pictured at their 5-year anniversary in-person quarterly meeting.

Thursday, November 2, 2023 the Health Equity Collective (HEC) celebrated its 5-year anniversary at an in-person quarterly meeting.

The Health Equity Collective is a core infrastructure initiative of the UTHealth Houston Center for Health Equity. Using a collective impact approach, the HEC gathers stakeholders from 200+ organizations across sectors (e.g., government, payers, CBOs, healthcare, corporate) with the mission of establishing an impactful, collective, sustainable, data-driven system to promote health equity by addressing social determinants of health needs among Greater Houston residents. Backbone leaders, Heidi Hagen McPherson, MPH, and Shreela Sharma, PhD, RDN, LD, support and guide the coordination of the HEC. The HEC is comprised of workgroups that are led by member organizations to address different priorities—Health & Housing, Communications, Food Security, Policy, Community Health Workers (CHWs), Mental Health & Substance Use, and Community Voice. 

McPherson and Sharma presented a timeline, recalling HEC’s development and accomplishments. Highlights included collaborating organizations developing the HEC’s framework for achieving better health together in 2021; hosting over 1000 conversations within workgroups to operationalize the framework; hosting 30 virtual networking sessions; launching a closed loop referral demonstration between healthcare agencies and CBOs; and efforts to uplift and empower CHWs by strengthening the CHW workforce ecosystem.

In a TedEx-style format, seven speakers gave engaging talks about their accomplishments and experiences followed by a Q&A session. Speakers included Jemima John, PhD, assistant professor at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health, Center for Health Equity; Suzanne Jarvis, MPH, chief analytics and communications officer at Houston Recovery Center; Alan C. Watkins, MDiv, executive director of the Houston Housing Collaborative; William Lyons, LCSW-S, senior manager of Health Connect at Legacy Community Health; Rosalia Guerrero, MBA, CHWI at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health, Texas Epidemic Public Health Institute; and Mayela Botello, CHWI wellness advocate manager & CHW instructor at Community Health Choice.

The last keynote speaker, Cynthia Osborne, PhD, executive director professor of early childhood education and policy at Vanderbilt University, shared her work on Prenatal to 3 Policy Impact Center in advocating for policies shown benefit infants (0-3 years’ old) and mothers’ wellbeing.

McPherson ended the meeting with the compelling reminder that progress moves at the speed of trust encouraging attendees to lean in, engage, and join the Collective efforts.

Part of the quarterly meeting along with previous gatherings, learning sessions, and speakers can be viewed on the Center for Health Equity’s YouTube Channel.