5 Questions with Kelli Houston, CHPW Chief Equity Officer
CHPW was founded by Community Health Centers (CHCs) over 30 years ago, and we continue to work with them to provide quality health care for our members in Washington. Part of this work includes recognizing and addressing health inequities and working to improve health care access. As part of our journey in this work, CHPW welcomed Kelli Houston as our first Chief Equity Officer in 2022. We sat down with her and asked her five questions about her work.
How long have you been with CHPW and what does your role entail?
I started with CHPW in November of 2022. My role as Chief Equity Officer entails providing oversight and accountability for improving our members’ care and health outcomes by advancing health equity initiatives, addressing health disparities, and improving access to quality health care for the broader communities being served. Additionally, my role offers me the opportunity to help CHPW to cultivate a more equitable work environment for all our staff members by shaping and optimizing policies, programs, and practices within the organization.
What interested you about joining CHPW?
I was drawn to CHPW by the commitment of our CEO Leanne Berge to ensure that equity is the forefront of our work as we strive to reduce health disparities through an equity lens. As a strong advocate for racial and gender equity, I was excited to be part of a team that centers social justice and equity as the ingredients to advancing health and racial equity.
What makes you proud in your work life?
I feel most proud when I see all the amazing accomplishments towards creating a healthier and equitable care system for our multicultural communities while ensuring that members are treated with dignity and respect regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, immigration status or disability. I am proud to be part of the team of equity champions such as members of our CHPW Equity Council and the employee-led Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group who have spent tireless hours ensuring that equity is woven in the fabric of our policies and practices.
Further, I am committed to ensuring that we remove barriers to health for our members and offering a workplace environment that creates a stronger sense of belonging for our staff. We do this while building a culture of safety and belonging throughout the organization that includes fostering anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
What has drawn you to focus your advocacy in health care specifically?
Well, I think my experience in health care, even though I am not a clinician, was very important to the understanding that I am also a patient. And so being able to know what is important for my own health equity was always the guiding factor for me. For the past seven years I have focused on advancing equity across all our health systems. It starts at home with employees equipped with education and awareness and how to better serve, particularly how to better support our diverse populations.
What is something people may not know about you?
I am a former stand-up comic who auditioned for NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.” I spent two years honing my craft. It was fun and I learned a lot about myself and the art of courage.