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Workshop: Making Houston a Healthy City 

Published Dec 17, 2019 by Sophia Guevara

The Partnership’s Health Care Advisory Committee, chaired by Troy Villarreal, hosted a two-part Healthy Cities workshop, facilitated by McKinsey & Company, focused on understanding what can be done to make Houston a healthier city. While Houston is fortunate to have some of the best medical care in the world, it is not often viewed as one of the healthiest cities. Workshop participants discussed the areas of opportunity where Houston fell short of the national average and worked to identify potential advocacy pathways for public policies relating to the health of the Houston region.  

The workshop began with putting into focus a high-level perspective on Houston's path to a healthy city and identified key factors influencing the outcome of health in the Houston region. The Houston region scores well on certain health outcomes but faces headwinds against national averages on other key metrics. While Houston is home to the largest medical center in the world, there are 1,722 patients per primary care doctor in the Houston city limits, compared to a 1,330 average in the United States. Similarly, there are 920 patients per mental health provider, but the national average is 426 patients per provider.

Building off interviews with employers in the Houston region and with experts in health care and health policy, the workshop participants refined a framework of five interrelated factors influencing health outcomes in Houston and used it as a basis for assessing the health of Houston.  

The framework’s key factors included: 1) health behaviors; 2) clinical care; 3) the built environment; 4) socioeconomic factors; and 5) social connectedness. Each of these factors have key measures through which progress can be tracked and resulting potential policies and programs that could be pursued to improve health in Houston. The resulting areas of opportunity that emerged from this exercise were: 1) wellness and healthy lifestyle; 2) childhood obesity; 3) maternal health and wellness; 4) mental health; and 5) disease prevention and care. 

During the second Healthy Cities Workshop, McKinsey & Company led small group discussions concerning how the Partnership could support policy changes to enable improvement in Houston's health in each of the five areas of opportunity. To prioritize the efforts, the workshop participants discussed and debated policy solutions and potential programs that would best address the most health outcomes at once or lead to the largest impact on Houston’s health and narrowed down the focus to potential solutions relating to mental health, obesity prevention, childhood health, and maternal health. 

There are already many organizations in Houston dedicated to addressing these health issues. In an effort to understand the current landscape, and to identify opportunities to amplify existing efforts, a catalogue was created of the programs in Houston that focus on improving health outcomes. Click here to access the catalogue.

The Health Care Advisory Committee will continue this work in 2020 by considering the political feasibility and the path forward on the many policy solutions proposed to help make Houston a healthier city.  

To learn more about the Health Care Advisory Committee, click here
To learn about how to join the Policy Committees, please email

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