Williamson County experienced unprecedented growth from 2010-2020 of 45.6%, more than double that of the growth of Texas, creating unique health challenges for the community. Growth has led to a rising cost of living and one out of three households do not earn enough to afford basic needs like housing, food, transportation, childcare, and health care, despte being employed.
Despite being ranked the second healthiest community in Texas, a large portion of Williamson County is designated as a high-need health equity zone, where residents have high health risks and burdens in comparison to other areas. This underscores the need for community-targeted solutions that better meet the needs of the entire county.
As part of the county’s health assessment and to ensure solutions are appropriate and sustainable, community members identified concerns that ultimately revealed four key themes: the importance of engaging the community for improved health outcomes, the connection of mental health across all health issues, the impact of dipartites that exist in health, and the effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
“Not having money really affects your mental health. You are trying to figure out, how am I going to pay this water bill, this gas bill, this light bill…I’m in a survival mode, and I need finances to just keep my head above water.” Williamson County resident
The community reported that their primary concerns centered on healthcare access from affordable healthcare for publicly insured or uninsured and awareness and support or health care programs, to culturally and linguistically appropriate care and services. Furthermore, social and structural determinants of health were another key concern – housing, homelessness, transportation, cost of living, affordability, and low socioeconomic status, internet access, and ethnic and racial segregation – which create significant barriers to care. Community health issues like aging challenges, chronic disease and chronic disease risk factors, dental care and mental health care are also serious concerns. Lastly, children’s health as it relates to abuse, mental health and intellectual disabilities was identified as community issue.
Williamson County has key resources available such as quality healthcare services, community programs, fresh foods, parks and green spaces that have contributed to the county’s ranking as the second healthiest county in Texas. However, health and wellness disparities persist. A targeted effort for each community, neighborhood and region is needed to advance equity across the county. With the guidance of the community, there are four top health priorities identified to help address inequities in health care:
One, increase the focus on improving the social and structural determinants of health by improving basic needs (housing, transportation, broadband internet access, and living wages) for all and eliminating ethnic and racial segregation.
Two, build resilience by improving mental health for children and youth and mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Three, increase healthy food access and physical activity to help address chronic disease and chronic disease risk factors.
Four, increase access to culturally and linguistically appropriate care and dental care for vulnerable populations (e.g., older adults, people of color, and people experiencing homelessness).
The four priorities are intertwined and underscore the importance of supporting whole-person, whole-community, holistic health that includes meeting basic needs like transport and housing. Download the report below to learn more about the 2022 community health needs assessment findings for Williamson County.