Q&A: Catherine Oliveros, DrPH, Vice President of Community Health Improvement at Texas Health Resources on the organization’s commitment to the public


Boram Kim


Texas Health Resources was recognized as a Healthy People 2030 Champion for its commitment to the vision and mission of the Healthy People initiative. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) named its selections based on an organization’s demonstrated interest in, understanding of, and experience with disease prevention, health promotion, social determinants of health, health disparities, health equity, or well-being. State of Reform spoke with Dr. Catherine Oliveros, Vice President of Community Health Improvement (CHI) regarding the recognition and the organization’s efforts to advance health equity. 


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State of Reform: What does the national distinction of being a “champion” of community health mean to the organization?

Dr. Catherine Oliveros: “Being recognized as a Healthy People 2030 champion is a great honor. The recognition brings credibility to the work we are doing and validates the Texas Health approach to drive change, especially in underserved communities. At Texas Health, our Community Health Improvement guiding principles include a commitment to view our communities through a health equity lens and to care for the whole person. 

In other words, we recognize that ZIP code is a bigger factor in health outcomes than genetic code and that social determinants of health must be addressed in any impactful health solution. We have recognized that Texas Health can play a role in addressing social determinants of health. We have a key role to play in bringing about innovative changes to improve health outcomes for all our communities outside of our traditional points of service. 

Equally important, Texas Health is committed to being data driven and outcome focused. The resources behind this commitment have allowed us to build our capacity to measure reach and impact across all our initiatives, aligning with Healthy People 2030 indicators.”

SOR: How has Texas Health Resources been committed to improving social determinants of health?

CO: “Texas Health has long committed to reaching members of our community where they are and partnering with them for a lifetime of health and well-being.

In 2018, Texas Health and the CHI team launched Texas Health Community Impact to help us take the next step in living our mission and identifying the needs within our communities. This is one way in which the Texas Health team is playing a role in upstream issues that impact health and well-being. 

Siloed efforts have limited success. To transform health and health care, we must transform systems and communities. Texas Health Community Impact calls on agencies from different sectors—education, health care, government, grassroots organizations, and others—to unite against identified issues.

In collaboration with community leaders in late 2018, we identified the most pressing health and social needs in prioritized ZIP codes across our 16-county service area. We asked local agencies and organizations to work together to propose solutions in their community, and in January 2019 we contributed $5.2 million toward implementation of regional strategic plans. 

Grants are given to cross-sector collaborations that innovatively look to change systems and create a seamless experience for those in the community needing services – regardless of their entry point. The first grants were funded through December 2020. We released new funding proposals in 2020 that allocated an additional $5 million to community efforts. 

The 2023-2024 release for funding proposal is now live and will be open through Sept. 15th, 2022.  For our third grant cycle, we are investing $8 million thanks to a $1.5 million gift from Communities Foundation of Texas’s W. W. Caruth, Jr. Fund and a match of an additional $1.5 million from Texas Health. In total, Texas Health will have invested $18.2 million by 2023.”

SOR: Could you highlight some of the work your organization is doing to address health equity and access?

CO: “Our commitment to addressing access and health equity issues dates back decades.

For example, our Wellness For Life Mobile Health team has been delivering cancer screenings and other health care services to medically underserved communities and people in North Texas for more than 25 years. A team of family nurse practitioners, registered nurses and mammography technologists provide prevention and early detection services, teach evidence-based practices and deliver COVID-19 vaccinations in partnership with community-based health clinics. 

Program staff, many of whom are culturally and ethnically diverse, have built strong relationships with community members. Our long-term presence in these neighborhoods has given staff insight into cultural barriers that commonly impede care delivery. Last year alone this program administered 10,882 COVID-19 vaccine doses, conducted 1,772 screening mammograms, completed 177 cervical exams, and distributed 68 colon cancer screening kits. 

Working within faith communities is a natural extension of the Texas Health Mission. The Faith Community Nursing program enables Texas Health to recruit and train volunteer nurses and health promoters—more than 220 currently—in the specialty practice of faith community nursing and provide ongoing support as these empowered volunteers care for their home congregations and communities. Texas Health faith community nurses are connected to more than 100 faith communities and have the potential to touch more than 175,000 lives annually through health screenings, vaccine clinics, education events, and support groups.

The Youth Engagement in Sports (YES) Dallas initiative is a project aimed at reducing the barriers to physical activity by providing middle school-age children in high-needs neighborhoods with sports and nutritional resources to promote health and overall wellness and offering a Sports Medicine Student Internship Program focused on introducing high school-age youth to careers in sports medicine. 

The primary objective of YES Dallas is to move youth toward physical and mental well-being and equipping them with the tools and knowledge necessary for them to thrive. One focus, for example, is decreasing barriers for participation of girls in sports and offering diverse resources for individuals to transform poor eating habits to smart nutritional choices. Through YES Dallas, our goal is to inspire healthy lifestyle habits. 

Texas Health and its collaborators, including The Salvation Army, Texas Woman’s University, North Texas Food Bank, Charter Schools, Inc., Yoga N Da Hood, and To Taste—A Culinary Experience, will increase participation of at least 130 socioeconomically disadvantaged youth in sports. The initiative also provides access to nutrition education, physical literacy resources, athletic training, community education, and mentoring. Several of the students who participated in the internship program have gone on to become first generation college students.”

SOR: What is your organization most focused on right now and what are its immediate needs?

CO: “In addition to the current programs in progress, every 3 years we complete a comprehensive Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). The results of the assessment form our foundation for determining community health research and programs to invest in, address health disparities, and improve health outcomes. We are currently working on the 2022 report that will define the CHI strategy for 2023-2025. 

We conduct focus groups, interview key stakeholders, facilitate listening sessions and use the data to prioritize and address health and social needs. Priorities identified by the 2019 CHNA included behavioral health, chronic disease management and prevention, and access, navigation, and health literacy. We will determine if priorities have shifted during the 2022 CHNA cycle.” 

This interview was edited for clarity and length.