This blog was written by United Way for Greater Austin’s Model Community Data Manager Dan Brown.
In early 2008, thirteen lead community agencies and institutions organized as the Charter Members of Children‘s Optimal Health (COH) and formed a Texas Unincorporated Non-Profit Association (TUNA). Five of the Charter Member organizations committed to the initial funding of COH, while others committed data, time, and their knowledge surrounding the Central Texas community.
The COH Board of Directors reflected the diverse organizations that impact children’s lives: healthcare, housing, education, economic development, and agencies addressing social and emotional development. This variety in Board representation allowed COH to look at a broader definition of health that included educational factors as well as the social determinants that play an important role in shaping outcomes for children.
COH was created as a “Utility” to help our community visualize issues related to children’s well-being. Partners included municipal entities, healthcare organizations, non-profits and corporations. With the neighborhood-level geographic (GIS) maps of locally held data that COH produced, the community was able to gather together to study issues and find solutions to the problems we face in ensuring children are healthy. COH joined the Urban Institute’s National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership as part of a learning community focused on increasing visibility and action around neighborhood disparities.
COH served as a collective leadership initiative that united the efforts of Central Texas organizations in promoting community change to help our children reach a brighter future. COH strived to give agencies and communities access to proprietary data by using GIS mapping to illuminate issues involving Central Texas children. By layering data from multiple sources, COH helped communities visualize the health of their neighborhoods, identify assets and needs, and unearth opportunities for collaborative change. COH has informed the Central Texas Area through GIS mapping and analyses successfully fulfilling its role in improving operations, impacting policy, encouraging research, and mobilizing the community.
As of July 1st, 2022, COH has merged with United Way for Greater Austin. Through this merger, business and operational infrastructure has been streamlined to more efficiently serve the Greater Austin community. This allows a stronger focus on research and evaluation, and ultimately maximizes impact as a data-driven organization.
The merger supports Model Community, a structured collaborative building a more effective, person-centered system of health, education, and social services. Model Community’s goal is to ensure that everyone in our community has the opportunity to be healthy and thrive, organizations can more effectively serve clients, and the community achieves equitable health and wellness outcomes.
COH staff members Dr. Susan Millea and Dan Brown have joined the United Way team and serve as members of the Model Community Backbone Team. COH Board member Dr. Anjum Khurshid, formerly with Dell Medical School and currently with Harvard Medical School, has joined the United Way for Greater Austin Board. The COH Board included local leaders across our health, education, and social services sectors. These partners will continue to provide guidance to United Way as members of the Model Community Strategic Advisory Council.
Together, we can do more.