SHCC submits update to 2017-2022 Texas State Health Plan

In a November report to Governor Abbott, the Texas Statewide Health Coordinating Council (SHCC) submitted its 2019-2020 update to the Texas State Health Plan.

The November update builds on the 2017-2022 Texas State Health Plan which focuses largely on supporting primary and mental health care in the state. The purpose of the State Health Plan is to provide guidance to “ensure that the State of Texas implements appropriated health-planning activities and that health care services are provided in a cost-effective manner throughout the state.”

The 2019-2020 update includes recommendations to the legislature for the upcoming session on improving Texas’s health literacy, increasing the availability of clinical training sites, addressing the state’s oral health needs, and improving Texans’ access to trauma care.


Health Literacy:

Health literacy is the ability to understand health information as well as the ability to make health decisions and navigate the health system based on that knowledge – this requires clear communication between a patient and their care team.

Lower health literacy is associated with increased ER visits, reduced rates of preventative care, and increased patient expenditures, according to the report.

“The direct cost of low health literacy in the U.S. is between $105 billion and $238 billion every year, while the indirect cost is between $1.6 trillion and $3.6 trillion every year.”

To improve the state’s health literacy, SHCC recommends that the legislature either create a new entity or charge an existing committee/counsel with promoting health literacy in the state. Specifically, they recommend identifying target groups that need health literacy intervention, evaluating best practices for improving literacy such as early education for school-aged children, and integrating health literacy into trainings for providers.


Clinical Training Sites:

Clinical training sites allow medical students the opportunity to participate in patient care as part of their education; but the availability of these kinds of sites is lacking in the United States.

To address long and short-term clinical site shortages, the report recommends utilizing simulations for clinical training and interprofessional collaboration and shared clinical spaces. The report also asks the legislature to charge higher education institutions with developing plans outlining the resources they will need for clinical training and to identify innovative solutions and ways to participate in community-based health care settings.


Oral Health:

“The Legislature, the Governor, and executive branch agencies should continue to support policies and programs that improve rural access to oral health care, directly and indirectly promote oral health, and seek to integrate oral and overall health systems to maximize patient outcomes.”

The availability of the oral health workforce and access to services varies widely across the state.  Since 2007, the number of licensed dentists in Texas increased by 33.6 percent. But last year, just 5.6 percent of dentists worked in non-metropolitan counties despite 11.2 percent of the state’s population living in these areas. Also, just 5.3 percent of dentists practiced in border counties while 10.4 percent of the population lives there.

To improve rural access to oral health care the update recommends the continued support of programs that recruit and retain dentists in rural areas such as student loan forgiveness. The report also recommends teledentistry, community interventions like fluoridation and school-based sealant programs, and oral health integration as methods to continue to improve oral health.


Trauma System:

According to the report, 32.4 percent of Texans lived more than 20 miles from a Level I or Level II trauma center and 12.1 percent lived more than 50 miles away from one. In terms of land mass, over 90 percent of land area in the state is over 20 miles away from a high-level trauma center.

“The Legislature should require the development of an in-depth report on the adequacy of the state’s trauma hospitals to provide for the needs of its population, particularly regarding the ability of the population to access Level I and Level II trauma centers in a timely fashion.”

Specifically, the report should identify areas in need to trauma center access, evaluate patient outcomes based on access to trauma centers, and consider potential funding options to expand the state’s trauma system capacity.

SHCC says it will release its 2021-2022 health plan update in November 2020.