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 Collaboratives? 

Each zone’s Community Collaborative will identify health priorities in that community and solutions to address those needs. A Community Collaborative is a diverse group of community members, leaders, and organizations who will work together to improve the health of their community. Collaboratives 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 Collaboratives 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 Collaboratives 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. Staff will also hold weekly office hours to answer questions. Visit the technical assistance webpage for more information.

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.