Institute for
Health Policy

Providing information and analysis to support more effective public health policy and better healthcare. Home of the Health of Houston Surveys.

About the Institute for Health Policy


Texans are faced with serious risks to health, rising health care costs and an overburdened health care delivery system. We need solutions to health problems and leaders informed about health matters. The Institute for Health Policy translates research findings into practical advice for problem-solving, by fostering more productive exchanges between the worlds of academic research and of public health problems and policy concerns.

Scope of work

  • Bridging and Brokering to contribute to improving the health of the public by developing creative ways to bridge the gap between scientific research, practitioners and policymakers and brokering opportunities for mutual support.
  • Analysis to provide useful and reliable knowledge for health policy and problem solving based on both the translation of scholarly work and periodic assessments of health trends throughout the state.
  • Design and Development to develop effective strategies for the design, communication and dissemination of viable policy solutions and to build the collaboration necessary to make those solutions more effective.
  • Education and Communication to equip the next generation of health policy leaders with the skills necessary to use scholarly inquiry and to inform research questions with policy knowledge.

More Efficient Use of Research Assets: “Bridge and Broker”

Having a centralized mechanism for translating research findings and disseminating them to potential users saves each research project the expense of creating its own capacity and learning how to make it work. The Institute is uniquely designed to perform this “bridging” function.

Moreover, when policy issues arise or practical problems become known, instead of relying on haphazard contacts to draw the attention of researchers, the Institute is ideally suited to “brokering” requests to those best able to meet them. As noted, the bridging and brokering can work in both directions. Research findings can also be brokered to potential users, and bridges can be built and maintained between health policy action and academic study.

News + Media

Media coverage for COVID-19 research


Interviewed by NPR-affiliated KERA News in Dallas about the lack of COVID-19 testing sites in neighborhoods where higher concentrations of vulnerable populations live. The story was picked up by NPR national, and mentioned on NPR's Morning Edition and the podcast Up First. [Listen to Up First Audio Clip at 10.30 min at story for Texas Testing Disparity]

Leadership Houston

Interviewed by Leadership Houston: Watch A Conversation with Dr. Stephen H. Linder- LH Class XXXVIII Health and Wellness.

Center for Houston’s Future/Rice University

Panel discussion webinar with the Center for Houston’s Future Webcast Series discussing Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act.


Led research revealing the areas of Texas' major metro cities where residents are at greatest risk for hospitalization and critical care treatment due to COVID-19, that was covered by KXAN-TV Channel 36 in Austin during the 10 p.m.and 4 a.m. The story was shared


Interviewed by NBC KXAS-TV Channel 5 in Dallas and the Dallas Morning News about research he led showing what areas of the city have the highest concentration of risk factors for severe and critical cases of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization and intensive care. The story was shared on the station's website. Read more in UTHealth News

Exclusive report and  interview with NBC DFW Channel 5 about the Dallas Neighborhoods at Greatest Risk for Severe COVID-19 Cases

Study discoveries reported in D Magazine, Where Covid-19 is Likely to Strike Hardest in Dallas


Interviewed by the Houston Chronicle for the areas of Harris County are at highest risk from coronavirus

Interviewed by ABC KTRK Channel 13 for investigating if Texas hospitals are ready for steep rise in COVID-19 cases

Interviewed by The Texas Observer  investigating why "COVID-19 Could Be a ‘Double Whammy’ for Those in Pollution Hotspots

Interviewed by ABC KTRK-TV Channel 13 examining what demographic data is important in understanding why the virus is impacting minorities at higher rates.

Wrote a report showing areas of Houston where residents are most vulnerable to complications from COVID-19 that was included in a Vice story how the virus affects people who live in areas with higher levels of air pollutants. Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia was quoted about the study

Interviewed by ABC KTRK-Channel 13 differentiating Corona Virus Deaths, explaining why African Americans are making up the majority of COVID-19 deaths in Houston

Interviewed by CBS KHOU-TV Channel 11  showing how UTHealth maps out where high levels of care are likely needed for COVID-19 in large Texas cities. The Institute for Health Policy's study looked at populations of a certain age, and those who have chronic diseases, including heart, lung disease and diabetes.

Reported by MSN News, UTHealth maps out where high levels of care likely needed for COVID-19 in large Texas cities

Interview  by the Center for Houston’s Future Leadership Webcast Series discussing how disparities shape the effects of COVID-19 on various communities. Watch Episode 5: A Conversation with Dr. Stephen Linder

Investigative interview by CBS KHOU-11, 'Disasters do discriminate' | COVID-19 rates higher in poverty or minority Houston-area neighborhoods.  The story was also posted on the KHOU website .

News release issued by the Houston Health Department for “Houston's COVID-19 response focuses on access and equity, contact tracing,” mentions the research led by Linder on the populations in Houston most likely to develop a severe case of COVID-19

Presented the Health of Houston’s Survey on Asian American Population at the Region VI Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Health Summit 2020 for the  Asian American Health Coalition of the Greater Houston Area.

Presented the Health of Houston Survey on Harris County at the Class XXXIX Health & Wellness Learning Session for Leadership Houston

Podcasts and Streaming Courses

Knowledge Translation Podcast

A core mission of the Institute for Health Policy is find ways to “bridge” the gap between public health researchers and decision-makers in health policy by translating science-based knowledge into meaningful information for action.  In the early 1990s, the first systematic initiatives in this knowledge translation task were undertaken by Canadian research institutions and grant-makers. Their concepts of translation and exchange eventually crossed the 48th Parallel to be split into two activities, known by US grant-makers as Community Engagement and Implementation & Dissemination.  While there is some overlap, not all of the Canadian experience in KT was adopted here.        

Through our knowledge translation (KT) audio podcast series, we want to preserve the insights, experience and lessons learned by those who were part of the founding efforts in KT and to supplement these with complementary perspectives from practitioners in the US.  You will find sixteen 30-minute episodes, recorded and edited here at the IHP.  Brief descriptions of the speakers and links to their conversations appear below.  All of the podcasts are free to stream or to download.

KT Audio Podcasts coming soon!

Health Policy Streaming Course

In the Fall of 2017, Drs. Linder and Garson, then with the Health Policy Institute of the Texas Medical Center, convened a planning group to develop a course in healthcare policy that would engage volunteers from TMC member institutions.  The idea was to take on pressing policy issues affecting TMC institutions, pose questions, and facilitate a discussion between expert panelists and a live audience.  The 90-minute sessions were live-streamed and recorded. Seven TMC academic institutions adopted the course for graduate credit and supplemented the recorded sessions with discussions and supplemental readings, identified by the panel participants each week.

The course was offered in 2018 and 2019, consisting of 13 weekly sessions each year. The topics changed from year-to-year, as did the panelists, but the audience engagement remained central.  The IHP is pleased to host all 26 sessions, as the topics remain timely. 

TMC Health Policy Course 2019

Co-Directors, Stephen H. Linder, Ph.D. and Arthur "Tim" Garson, Jr. MD, MPH, MACC

Weeks 1 - 13

Week 1: Debunking the Health Policy Myths

Week 2: State and Local Health Policy Objectives and Methods

Week 3: How Health Policy is Made

Week 4: Access to Care and Health Insurance Coverage

Week 5: Quality of Care

Week 6: Financing, Payment and Cost

Week 7: Safety Net Programs

Week 8: The Public Health System

Week 9: U.S. Health Policy Methods

Week 10: Social Determinants of Health

Week 11: Ethical Dilemmas in Health Policy

Week 12: Health Care Workforce

Week 13: National Health Reform

TMC Health Policy Course 2018

Co-Directors, Stephen H. Linder, Ph.D. and Arthur "Tim" Garson, Jr. MD, MPH, MACC

Weeks 1 - 13

Week 1:  Beliefs and Myths About U.S. Health Care

Week 2: State and Local Health Policy Objectives and Methods

Week 3: How Health Policy is Made

Week 4: Access to Care and Health Insurance Coverage

Week 5: Financing, Payment, and Cost

Week 6: Quality of Care 

Week 7: Safety Net Programs 

Week 8: The Public Health System

Week 9: U.S. Health Policy Methods

Week 10: Social Determinants of Health

Week 11: Ethical Dilemmas in Health Policy

Week 12: Health Care Workforce

Week 13: National Health Reform

Our research 

Bridging the gap between policy and practice

Current areas of focus include: improving the evidence base of health policymaking, population studies on health needs, enhancing regulatory science and environmental health policy, innovations in interprofessional education for the next generation of health professionals, and access to health care, both nationally and internationally. The Institute for Health Policy has also been an active participant in the Texas Public Health Policy Forum, the 2005 BioTexas Summit, the 2004 Media Science Forum and Research! America.

City and state analysis

Knowledge translation 

Substance use

Air pollution

  • A Closer Look at Air Pollution in Houston: Identifying Priority Health Risks (Report of the Mayor’s Task Force on the Health Effects of Air Pollution)
  • Health Outcome Databases 

The costs of underinsurance or uninsurance

Noise pollution

Physical activity

Mapping risk factors for severe COVID-19 in Texas metro areas

The Institute for Health Policy has created maps of the risk factors associated with severe COVID-19 disease for cities and counties in Texas. 

COVID-19 Fact Sheets

Update of COVID-19 Severity in Houston Area Fact Sheet (en)

COVID-19 Severity in Harris County Fact Sheet (en)

COVID-19 Severity in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio Fact Sheet (en)

COVID-19 Severity in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio Fact Sheet (es)

Health of Houston Survey


The Health of Houston Survey (HHS) is the largest health survey of adults and children in Harris County and the City of Houston. The survey is a valuable source of statistics on health, health care and insurance, cancer screening, mental health, health behaviors and neighborhood conditions at county, city and neighborhood levels. The HHS is used for documenting unmet needs, identifying disparities in health, resource targeting, documenting community benefits and strategic planning. In each survey, a representative sample of residents of the Houston area across sub-county areas, as well as across groups defined by race and ethnicity, poverty level and gender, is selected and interviewed. The first HHS was conducted in 2010, the second was completed in 2018. Survey data is free and accessible through a web-based, interactive and user-friendly interface. You can review our most commonly asked questions in our FAQ Sheet

The Houston Endowment and UTHealth supported the survey in 2010. Support for the 2018 survey was provided by:

Houston Endowment
Episcopal Health Foundation
Texas Children’s Hospital
Memorial Hermann Health System
Community Health Choice/Harris Health System
UTHealth, President’s Excellence Fund
UTHealth School of Public Health, Office of the Dean
Texas Medical Center, Health Policy Institute


Maps of Health Indicators

View the Single Indicator Map in InstantAtlas, which includes area percentages, maps and rankings. There is an exporting option available for presentations. For more information about how to use InstantAtlas, click here.


View the Area Profile Map in InstantAtlas, which includes sub-county area profiles. The 2018 data and a new geography of 38 Harris County Public Use Microdata Areas have been added. For updates, please contact us at [email protected].


Tables and Data

View the data and construct tables in Nesstar. To download the data in Nesstar, complete public use file data agreement form and send it to [email protected].


PUMA Aggregated Estimates

We have aggregated survey data into 38 US Census Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMAs) to facilitate the use of health indicators at subcounty level. Get the estimates.

HHS Methodology

In 2017-18, HHS employed a dual-frame Random Digit Dialing sample design, using a combination of landline phones and cellphones. Half-way to completion, in August 2017, it had to pause due to Harvey-related flooding. The survey resumed again in February 2018, at which time questions on how the Hurricane impacted the lives of Houstonians, such as flooding and property damage, income, employment, evacuation, assistance/aid and recovery, were added. Few questions that were not part of core questionnaire were eliminated.

HHS Questionnaires and Codebooks

The 2018 questionnaire is largely based in 2010 questions, the core of which we preserved for data comparability across years. New items were solicited via email from all the stakeholders involved in providing topics in 2010 and data users. Flooding from Hurricane Harvey prompted the need to add new Harvey-related questions mid-survey, which were asked to the sample interviewed six to nine months after Harvey.

The HHS questionnaire was created to match the health information needs of organizations that work to improve Houston area residents’ health. In 2009, we invited local organizations and health authorities to provide suggestions on topic priorities. We also solicited suggestions based on community priorities from all Super Neighborhood Councils in the City of Houston and the civic associations. To see a summary of the results of the feedback please see our Input Summary Fact Sheet, or read more about the questionnaire development.

Mapping the Houston Area

HHS 2018 Files
  • Mapping the Houston area by PUMAs (Excel file)
  • HHS 2018 PUMAs (map)
HHS 2010 Files

Survey Reports

The Health of Houston Survey presentations, reports, questionnaires and survey promotional materials are available for download and printing.

Publications and presentations with HHS data

Browse a collection of journal articles, fact sheets and presentations using Health of Houston Survey data.

Contact HHS

Key faculty and staff
  • Stephen Linder, PhD - Faculty and Principal Investigator
  • Dritana Marko, MD - Faculty and Project Director
  • Jessica Tullar, PhD - Faculty and Survey Epidemiologist
  • Tom Reynolds, PhD - Research and Technical Support
  • Patty Poole - Administrative Support

For more information about the Health of Houston Survey, contact Dr. Dritana Marko at [email protected] or 210-276-9041.

Mailing address

Institute for Health Policy
The University of Texas School of Public Health
P.O. Box 20186
Houston, TX 77225
Email: [email protected] 

The Greater Houston Community Panel


Hero Images

The Greater Houston Community Panel is a joint initiative of UTHealth Houston Institute for Health Policy (at the School of Public Health), Rice University Kinder Institute for Urban Research, and the Houston Health Department that aims to engage Houstonians on issues that affect the Houston metropolitan area.

The panel is made up of a diverse group of randomly selected adult individuals who reflect the social, economic, and demographic makeup of the Houston community. We frequently invite panel members to participate in surveys on an array of topics, such as public health, education, and community development. Panel members respond via web or phone interviews, in either English or Spanish.

The insights provided by the panel are used as a barometer of the health status, opinions, and attitudes of Houstonians which better inform and guide decision-making and future planning by local officials, community groups, and other organizations. As such, it plays an important function in promoting civic engagement and ensuring that the voices of Houstonians on key and timely issues are represented in local policy and decision-making. A platform such as this help foster a more informed and inclusive community.

The project is funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through a grant from the Houston Health Department. Listed below are surveys fielded to the Greater Houston Community Panel with PUDFs available here. Read more about the panel and other surveys from our partners at Rice University.

COVID-19 Surveys


The Covid-19 Surveys provide insights into people’s experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic, the pandemic impact on physical and mental health, household finances, and personal employment. For households with children, it sheds light on certain aspects of children’s experiences and coping mechanisms during the pandemic. Participants are members of the Greater Houston Community Panel (GHCP), which is constructed to reflect, as accurately as possible, the socio-demographic composition of Houston’s community.

First Covid-19 Survey

  • Questionnaire
  • Codebook
  • Data and variables

Second Covid-19 Survey (coming in 2024)

  • Questionnaire
  • Codebook
  • Data and variables

Population Survey Repository (draft in progress)

The Institute for Health Policy maintains a repository of databases for our region drawn from population surveys. It features downloadable Public Use Data Files from the Health of Houston and COVID Impact Surveys. Other surveys will be added as they become available


    Conducting needs assessments and "meeting people where they are"

    UTHealth School of Public Health researchers work to bridge that gap between what intervention programs offer versus what's needed by creating programs based on input from the individuals who have lived the experiences. 

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact - Meeting People Where They Are

    Vanessa Schick, PhD; and J. Michael Wilkerson, PhD, MPH

    Carol Huber appointed to the Value Based Payment and Quality Improvement Advisory Committee for Texas

    Huber will serve as a member representing regional healthcare partnerships.

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact 2020 - Carol Huber appointed to Value Based Payment and Quality Improvement Advisory Committee for Texas

    Carol Huber

    Meeting the public health education needs of the Permian Basin community

    UTHealth School of Public Health and the University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB) College of Business have partnered to provide graduate students with the opportunity to earn a Graduate Certificate in Public Health while simultaneously earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) beginning Spring 2020.

    READ MOREUTPB Partnership CertificateSPH - Our Impact - UTPB Partnership Certificate

    UTHealth School of Public Health Dean Eric Boerwinkle, PhD, UTPB President Dr. Sandra Woodley

    Preventing and caring for HIV in homeless youth

     Alexis Sims, a doctoral student in health promotion and behavioral sciences at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health, has been awarded a $100,000 supplemental research grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate HIV prevention and care in homeless youth.

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact - NIH funding for HIV

    Alexis Sims, MPH

    Fighting back against the vaping epidemic among youth

    As e-cigarette use by young people reaches epidemic proportions, researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) have received a $3.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct the first-ever assessment on the long-term results of a nationwide nicotine vaping prevention program for youth called CATCH My Breath.

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact - vaping epidemic

    Steven H. Kelder, PhD, MPH

    Leading data collection effort aimed at reducing teen pregnancy

    The data collection effort, expected to take six months, is the second part of a yearlong planning phase to address the issue of pregnancy prevention among children in foster care. Melissa Peskin, PhD, associate professor with UTHealth School of Public Health, will lead the effort.

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact - CLYC slider

    Dr. Markham works with community partner. Photo by Aaron Nieto.

Contact us

IHP Mailing Address

Institute for Health Policy
The University of Texas School of Public Health
P.O. Box 20186
Houston, TX 77225

Director and Professor

Stephen H. Linder, PhD
[email protected]

Faculty Associate

Dritana Marko, MD, MSc
[email protected]

Faculty Associate

Jessica M. Tullar, PhD
[email protected]

Sr. Administrative Coordinator

Patty Poole, MSc, IDT
[email protected]