About the Health Equity Zones Initiative

What is a Health Equity Zone? 

A Health Equity Zone (HEZ) is a geographically connected area where people living there work together will work to address their community’s unique health concerns. The idea is that people living in a community facing health barriers often bring the best solutions.  

What does geographically connected mean?

For the purposes of the nomination process, geographically connected communities are areas that are next to each other and share a border or waterway. 

How was the Health Equity Zones Initiative created? 

State lawmakers passed Senate Bill 5052 (only in English) in 2021 to create the Health Equity Zones Initiative. A Community Advisory Council with members from across the state are leading the effort, including the zone selection process. 

Who is the Community Advisory Council (CAC)? 

The Community Advisory Council is a group of community and sector leaders, including tribal community representatives, from across Washington state who are developing the HEZ Initiative. The CAC works in collaboration with the Community Workgroup. 

Who is the Community Workgroup? 

The Community Workgroup is an open membership group that provides guidance to the CAC on key decisions through their lived experiences and expertise.

Zone Details

Why only three zones? 

The Health Equity Zones Initiative is in the pilot phase of implementation. The Department of Health is committed to growing and sustaining Health Equity Zones with this important foundation created by community leadership.  

Why are there three zone designations?

To ensure equitable selection of zones across the state, the CAC created three priority designations for the zones: urban, rural, and Native communities. These designations recognize the unique social, economic, and environmental factors in each of the three communities. 

Are tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations eligible to nominate their community through the urban or rural zone nomination process? 

Yes. Tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations are eligible to nominate their community as a rural or urban health equity zone. Please note, the selection process for the zone dedicated to Native communities is still being developed by tribal community representatives on the Community Advisory Council and therefore the opportunity to be considered for the zone for Native communities is not yet available. This selection process may differ from the rural and urban zones.

How do I know which designation to apply for?

The CAC created definitions to help people who are interested in nominating their community determine whether it is rural or urban. Tribal community representatives on the CAC are in progress of developing the selection process for the third zone dedicated to Native communities. If you want to learn more about this zone and/or be part of the development process, please contact us at HealthEquityZones@doh.wa.gov

What if I don't consider my community to be rural or urban?

We recognize that communities may not identify as either rural or urban and some communities may include areas that are both rural and urban. For the purposes of the nomination process, please indicate which you more closely identify with and describe the unique geographic characteristics of your community in your responses to the nomination questions.

What if my organization works statewide or across multiple communities?

The Health Equity Zones Initiative uses a place-based approach by seeking to reduce health inequities in geographic communities. Organizations that work statewide or across multiple communities are encouraged to think about areas they serve that would benefit most from focused locally-driven solutions.  

Who developed the process for selecting the rural and urban Health Equity Zones?

The CAC developed the zone selection process over the course of the past year, including eligibility criteria, designations, and community nomination.  

What is the process for selecting the Health Equity Zone for a Native community?

The process to select a zone dedicated to a Native community is still being created in collaboration with the tribal community representatives on the Community Advisory Council. The process is ongoing as the tribal representatives lead engagement with Native communities across Washington. If you would like to learn more about this zone, please contact healthequityzones@doh.wa.gov.  

How big should a zone be?

A zone should be small enough for focused community-driven solutions to have an impact on health, for example, a cluster of zip codes or a neighborhood. The areas included in a zone must be connected geographically. 

What are Community Collectives? 

Each zone’s Community Collective will identify health priorities in that community and solutions to address those needs. A Community Collective is a diverse group of community members, leaders, and organizations who will work together to improve the health of their community. Collectives will build on existing partnerships in a community and help establish new ones. 


How much funding is available?

Each zone will receive $200,000 per year for two years to identify health priorities, develop a plan to address health priorities, and implement solutions while funding remains available. 

Are there restrictions on how funds can be spent?

Community Collectives in each zone will determine how funds should be spent based on the unique needs of their community. Funds can be used for new or existing projects.  

What will be the reporting requirements for this funding if selected as a Health Equity Zone?

Reporting and evaluation will be determined in partnership with Community Collectives and DOH. 

Nominations and Selection

Who can nominate a Health Equity Zone?

Anyone who lives or works in Washington state, whether permanently or seasonally, can nominate their community. The zone selection process will prioritize communities most impacted by health inequities. 

What are examples of health inequities?

In some communities, people have a shorter life expectancy, or higher rates of asthma or diabetes. Some have more air pollution. Some communities lack doctors or medical facilities. A health inequity means that people who live in a certain community have poorer health outcomes or lack health resources. You can explore how your community compares to the rest of the state in a number of health categories by using the Washington Tracking Network (English only) If you need help using the Washington Tracking Network dashboards, please email doh.wtn@doh.wa.gov

Do I need to propose a specific project to be chosen as a Health Equity Zone?

No. Nominated communities do not need to have a specific project in mind to be chosen as a Health Equity Zone.

When and where can I fill out the nomination form? 

The nomination form opens on March 13, 2023, and closes on April 23, 2023. Visit the submit a nomination form webpage to fill out an online or PDF version of the nomination form.

What kind of technical assistance will be available?

Informational calls are scheduled for March 22 and April 6, 2023 to provide an overview of the nomination form and selection process. 

Who will be selecting the rural and urban zones? 

The CAC will identify the urban and rural zones. Visit the zone selection process webpage for more information.

When will I know if my community has been selected as a Health Equity Zone? 

The nomination form closes on April 23, 2023. The final zone selection is expected to be announced in July 2023. 

FAQs as of 4/6/2023

How will each zone identify health priorities and community-driven solutions? 

Community Collectives in each zone will identify health priorities and develop an action plan to address those priorities with technical support from the Department of Health. Community Collectives will determine how they want to assess health priorities using new and/or existing data. For planning purposes, the Department of Health is estimating up to 12 months for this process, however the timeline of this planning phase will be driven by the Collectives.

Who receives the funds for each zone?

The Department of Health will provide funding to support the convening of the Community Collectives including the identification of a backbone agency to support outreach and related logistics. This also includes funding to compensate participating community members for their time and expertise. These funds are separate from and in advance of the $200,000 per year allocated for zones to implement their project plans. Community Collectives will determine which organization will manage the $200,000 to implement the community-driven solutions in their action plan. Please note, the organization who is implementing the projects may or may not be the same as the backbone organization depending on what the Collective decides.

What are the plans for the sustainability of Health Equity Zones Initiative?

The Department of Health will work with Community Collectives in each zone to establish a sustainable structure for community-driven decision making and to seek funding sources within and outside of the Department of Health, after the initial two years. The intent of the legislature is to grow the number of zones after this pilot phase, as funds available.

Should I collaborate with other individuals or organizations to submit a nomination?

Collaboration on a nomination is not required, however it is a consideration in zone selection. Once zones are selected the process of identifying health priorities and developing a project plan will be highly collaborative, open to community members in the zone with technical assistance support from the Department of Health.

What are other requirements for this funding and those involved if selected as a Health Equity Zone? 

Each zone’s Community Collective will determine the participation expectations for Collective members. This includes meeting length and frequency, participation in trainings or other learning opportunities, and data collection efforts. The Department of Health is committed to supporting each zone in the manner that they request. Each zone will determine how much support and involvement from the Department of Health they would prefer.

If you have specific questions that are not answered here please email them to HealthEquityZones@doh.wa.gov the Health Equity Zones Team will schedule a Zoom meeting to further address your questions if needed.