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Report Highlights Health Inequities in Austin

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Charlotte Carpenter for KUT News
Anita Hoffman works with Elizabeth Colvin, director of Foundation Communities' Insure Central Texas, to sign up for a health insurance plan on June 17, 2015.

The city of Austin has released a report on health gaps throughout Travis County. It touches on high rates of teenage pregnancy, infant mortality and HIV among African-American and Hispanic communities.

But this report is just the first step toward helping the city and local non-profits find a way to use the city budget to bridge gaps between different communities.

Austin’s the most economically segregated metropolitan area in the country. We heard that earlier this year and, when City Council members got wind of the news, they passed a resolution asking for recommendations on how the city could ease health and economic inequity within its limits. Council formed a group of city staff and community-based organizations to come up with some ideas.

Priscilla Hale is the director of Allgo, a group that represents queer minorities in Texas. She says because the city can’t necessarily fund healthcare, her group recommended funding something else.

“Like bringing communities together for some education, but not necessarily providing direct services," Hale says.

The working group is asking the city to put just over a million dollars behind organizations that represent minority cultures and offer social support within communities. But that’s not all. In the same resolution, City Council has asked staff to come up with what it’s calling an “inequity assessment tool” – basically, a way of looking at an expense in the city budget and deciding if it would worsen or better Austin’s economic segregation. Hale from Allgo gave an example.

“If you’re gonna build a park there, is it going to benefit folks? If you’re going to put money in this line item, does it further the gap, you know?” Hale says.

The working group’s initial ideas about that inequity assessment tool will be presented to council in mid-September.

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