Structure of the Pacific and Southwest Regional Health Equity Council

A key component of the leadership framework for operationalizing the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity (National Stakeholder Strategy), the Region IX Health Equity Council (Council) is a voluntary multi-sector group that provides leadership, ensures continued information flow, and galvanizes action.

The Council addresses health disparities improvement actions for Region IX and works to leverage resources, infuses the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA) goals and strategies into policies, practices, and shares stories and successes with broad constituencies. The Council functions independently to ensure that issues, strategies, and required actions are applicable to the states of Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau. 

RHEC IX maintains a diverse membership representing several sectors such as state and local government, academic and research, hospital and medical facility, civic and nonprofit and the private sector. The diversity on RHEC IX ensures adequate input from diverse sectors in the council’s efforts to understand and address health disparities in the region. The council has 30 voting seats. 

Pacific and Southwest Regional Health Equity Council Committees

Pacific and Southwest Regional Health Equity Council (RHEC) established six committees to develop objectives, strategies, and/or activities to address the following priority areas: community outreach and education, funding and sustainability, behavioral health, elderly health disparities, health information technology, and health and healthcare disparities textbook. The Community Outreach and Education Committee is comprised of the following subcommittees: community health workers; refugee health; access to health care; and engaging youth in health disparities research subcommittees. 

Behavioral Health Caucus—Co-Chairs: Hong Chartrand, MPA, Teresa Pena, MEd, CHI, and Daphyne Watson, MSW

The Behavioral Health Committee was established in 2014 to advise the council on the behavioral health aspect of health equity issues. The Caucus purpose was expanded to include raising awareness of behavioral health issues and disparities across Region 9; ensuring the integration of behavioral health issues into the work of the RHEC committees; and to providing strategies and recommendations to reduce behavioral health disparities in Region IX. 

Community Outreach and Education (COE) – Co-Chairs: Chara Chamie, MPH, and Jasmin Kiernan, RN

Committee was established in 2014 to advise the council on opportunities to enhance its effectiveness in ending health disparities in Region IX. Specifically, the committee advises and makes recommendations to the council regarding optimal strategies; this includes:
  • Planning, implementing, and evaluating community outreach/education programs to reduce health disparities and promote health equity;
  • Enhancing the council’s effectiveness in informing consumers, providers, and stakeholders about legislative policies and community efforts for optimizing health across the life span;
  • Extending outreach to vulnerable and underserved communities, including racial/ethnic minorities, in the context of preventive health interventions across the life span;
  • Assembling and sharing an information base of best practices and fact sheets to help consumers and providers evaluate health information and life enrichment choices; and 
Building and leveraging a social media infrastructure (Facebook page) to implement and disseminate health information.

Access to Care Subcommittee - Leads: Melva Thompson-Robinson, DrPH, MSPE, and Erika Marquez, PhD

The Access to Care Subcommittee is focused on improving the health equity among vulnerable populations by improving access to care in Region IX. In this current year, the Access to Care Subcommittee will focus on assessing: geography, medical coverage, service delivery models, timeliness of services, workforce distribution, structural barriers, physical, legal and financial/socioeconomic and other factors that directly impact access among the most vulnerable populations. The committee will also explore what each state’s current political commitment and policy interventions are in place to provide a more equitable health workforce distribution in Region IX, particularly in more rural or remote areas. This assessment will inform solutions, decisions, practices and policies that can aid in reducing existing disparities in health.

Community Health Workers Subcommittee – Leads: Agnes Attakai, MPA, Connie Chan Robison, MPH, and Shene Bowie, DrPH, MPA.

The priority areas for 2017 were not directly relevant to CHWs, but the RHEC will maintain a presence on the cross-RHEC CHW Workgroup and monitor the CHW activities across Region 9.

Engaging Youth in Research Subcommittee – Leads: Francisco S. Sy, MD, DrPH, and JRFujita

The Engaging Youth in Research Subcommittee is committed to inspire and support youth (aged 16- 25) from health disparity population to engage in reducing health disparities by encouraging them to participate in research training and to get involved with implementation of various health disparities related research projects.

Refugee Health Subcommittee – Leads: Chara Chamie, MPA, and Daphyne Watson, MSW

The purpose of the Refugee Health Disparities Committee is to improve awareness and understanding of refugee health in Region IX so as to better meet the needs of this population. This will include identifying 1) Types of refugees (including asylums, victims of trafficking) and entitlements, 2) Resettlement agencies in each state, and 3) Medical and behavioral health services in the region. Resources developed will include a gap analysis, resource document, and conducting an informational webinar to a multi-stakeholder audience on results obtained.

Elderly Health Disparities (EHD) Committee—Co-Chairs: Andrea Boyle, PhD, and Karen Routt, MBA Co-Chair

The Elderly Health Disparities (EHD) Committee was established in 2015. The committee’s overall goal is to plan, implement, and evaluate Region IX efforts in addressing health disparities among minority elders.

Funding and Sustainability Committee —Co-Chairs: Lee Piliscou, JD, Nai Kasick, MPH, CHES, and April Fernandez, MAS

was established in 2015 to create an infrastructure that would enable RHEC IX to receive funding from various sources. In December 2016, RHEC IX entered into an agreement with the Public Health Foundation Enterprise (PHFE) to serve as its fiscal sponsor. The Committee will continue to serve as the developmental department for the RHEC, which includes (1) implementing a streamlined method for receiving potential funding opportunities and interest from other committees and/or members; and (2) a process for vetting and capturing relevant information and needs in order to communicate the prospective request to PHFE. The goal is to assist the RHEC and PHFE in determining if the projects are fundable as well as identifying any prospects for funding opportunities that would assist the committees in meeting the goals, objectives and activities in their existing work plans. For 2017 the goal is to submit two applications for funding; and as a long term goal (2018 or later), the Committee will continue to consider the value of incorporating as an independent 501(c ) (3) non profit organization.

Health Information Technology (HIT) Committee—Co-Chairs: Andrew Makoto, PhD, and Brittnee Gauthier

Building on the work of the 2013-1016 HIT Committee, the 2017 HIT Committee’s purpose is to provide novel insight into innovative methods (e.g., smartphone apps, social media) for delivering culturally appropriate health information to underserved populations. In 2017, the HIT will focus on identifying innovative strategies and effective indicators for success that have been effectively implemented by RHEC IX members and other regional and national stakeholders (e.g., researchers, public health officials) by conducting: (1) systematic reviews of promising and/or best HIT practices in the scientific literature, and (2) online surveys of RHEC IX members. This work will result in an information brief distilling potentially effective HIT strategies for reaching underserved communities in Region IX.

Textbook on Health and Healthcare Care Disparities Ad Hoc Committee – Co-Chairs: Darlene Yee-Melichar, EdD, CHES, Peter Wong, PhD.,, MScEcon, MPP, and Francisco Sy, MD, DrPH

The goal of the Textbook on Health and Health Care Disparities Ad Hoc Committee is to plan, develop and publish a textbook on health and health care disparities with attention to the following three objectives and drawing from exemplars at the national, regional, state and local levels:
  1. Identify health and health care disparities that may be addressed by translating scientific research into community practice; 
  2. Identify health and health care disparities that may be reduced though best practices and model programs in the community; and 
  3. Identify collaborative partnerships and joint ventures that may help to close the gap on health and health care disparities in the community. 

Ongoing Activities and Accomplishments: 
  • Conduct a Regional Environmental Scan to collect health disparities data on Region IX to include Hawaii and the Pacific Islands: 
Describe gaps, challenges and opportunities. 
  • Identified solutions that demonstrated the value and impact of Community Health Workers to address health disparities and the social determinants of health . Launched a CHW program database, and released three CHW information briefs
Identify and elevate promising practices in the region. 
  • Use HIT/media tools to disseminate information about ACA and support patient education to underserved communities. 
Identify information needs and disseminate to populations in the region. 

Materials, media releases and/or social media accounts: