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Raising awareness of the challenges African Americans face in the health arena.

The idea for the Alliance for African American Health in Central Texas originated after the “Health Disparities among African Americans in Central Texas” conference was conducted in April 2005, by the Austin/Travis County Health & Human Services Department (now Austin Public Health). This was the third conference conducted by the department since 2001 attempting to raise awareness about health disparities in Central Texas. Critical data presented revealed that from 2000 – 2004, African Americans in Travis County were first in 10 of the 15 leading causes of death. This information was of great concern to conference participants and a need was expressed that more needed to be done to address health disparities.

This conference occurred around the same time the City of Austin launched an effort to examine the quality of life for African Americans in Austin. Through surveys and a series of community forums, five quality of life indicators were determined to be lower for African Americans as compared to other racial/ethnic groups. These categories were: Police & Safety, Employment and Education, Business and Economic Development, Neighborhood Sustainability, and Arts, Culture and Entertainment. Health was not initially included in the Quality of Life discussion. Due to the efforts of Shannon Jones, the Assistant Director of HHSD at that time, and others, health was added to the list of Quality of Life indicators that needed to be addressed.

The omission of health as a key determinant of quality of life, especially given the disparities faced by African Americans in Travis County, further underscored the need for an organization dedicated to addressing African American health.