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Health Agenda

Supporting the health of our Colorado communities has never been more important than in 2021.

A pandemic, an economic downturn, and long-standing disparities in access to health care and other vital services have converged to create profound challenges. These challenges also present opportunities to build a Colorado where all people can flourish.

At the Colorado Health Institute (CHI), we are committed to improving the health of all Coloradans by supporting evidence-based policies and providing rigorous information, analysis, and insight.

We are focused on a research agenda that advances the conversation about the most pressing issues and identifies promising opportunities to improve health and health policy. In all our activities, our goal is to create a state where health equity is a reality.

2021 Health Agenda

Our work focuses on the diverse factors that affect Coloradans’ health, from insurance and costs to access to child care and a healthy environment. Each year, we publish dozens of research briefs, online tools, and blogs. We are also part of the state’s health ecosystem, responding to information requests, serving on work groups and advisory committees, consulting with elected officials, offering presentations, town halls, webinars, and more. In all these roles, we make sure that sound data and evidence-based analysis are part of the discussion.CHI’s work is made possible by funders who support our mission of advancing health and health equity. CHI serves as a resource for nonprofits, policymakers, advocates, health care providers, and anyone interested in health and health policy.

As a Colorado nonprofit public health institute, we value our deep relationships with people and organizations across the state. Our work connects us to communities throughout the state.

We listen to residents and local leaders to inform our research and our understanding of what is important to Coloradans. And we partner with communities to identify barriers and create opportunities for change.


Our 2021 research agenda is organized into the following priority areas:

  • Politics and Policy (Legislative Services)
  • Cost, Affordability, and Payment Systems
  • Healthy Communities
  • Behavioral Health
  • Access to Care and the Safety Net
  • Public Health
  • Connecting Systems (Technology for Health)


Politics and Policy (Legislative Services)

Our founding mission is to improve health for the people of Colorado by offering evidence and objective analysis to inform effective policies. This mission is as important as ever in 2021, as partisan tensions run high, a new federal administration takes over, and the state legislature plans to tackle significant health issues, ranging from the pandemic to the cost of prescription medication.


2021 FOCUS AREAS: Tracking the Affordable Care Act through new challenges; understanding the Biden administration’s priorities; state health policy amid new political dynamics and priorities.


Cost, Affordability, and Payment Systems

What should providers, payers, and patients expect from each other when it’s time to pay the bills? This question remains unanswered — and relevant — for everyday Coloradans and for policymakers in 2021. Data show that nearly one in five Coloradans has recently had trouble paying a medical bill and nearly one in three has received a surprise bill. CHI is adept at identifying costs at the systems level, analyzing regional variations in prices, and evaluating alternative payment models.


2021 FOCUS AREAS: New attempts to address cost and affordability; the impact of cost/affordability on health and access to care; potential new systems in Colorado, including a public option; policies focused on price transparency; the impact of telehealth on access and costs.


Healthy Communities

Health is affected by so much more than what happens in the doctor’s office. A complex web of factors — including economic status, environmental conditions, and access to food, housing, employment, child care, and education — shapes the well-being of individuals and communities. We bring our analytic, place-based approach to examining the policies, practices, and trends affecting these social factors.


2021 FOCUS AREAS: Housing and hunger in post-pandemic Colorado; early childhood education and child care; health equity in a changing climate.


Behavioral Health

We can’t talk seriously about health without considering mental health and substance use disorders. Our work examines and supports the behavioral health system, including access to quality care.


2021 FOCUS AREAS: COVID-19’s impact on substance use and social isolation; disparities in behavioral health access and outcomes; supporting Coloradans through the economic downturn.


Access to Care and the Safety Net

Being able to access health care when and where it is needed is key to our physical and behavioral health. Through the Colorado Health Access Survey and other tools, CHI is able to explore the nuances of access to specialty, preventive, primary, oral, and behavioral health care. Our team studies who is and isn’t able to access care and works with partners to tackle gaps in state-level, system-level, and community-level policies.


2021 FOCUS AREAS: COVID-19’s impact on the safety net and public programs; tracking the evolving safety net; forgoing care during the pandemic and its implications; shifting trends in who is uninsured in Colorado and why.


Public Health

Last year was a reminder of the critical role played by public health agencies across the state and country, even when these professionals are overworked and underfunded. Understanding, communicating, and implementing complex health initiatives is vital to advancing the health of all Coloradans. CHI supports the state’s public health community through data, analysis, and facilitation.


2021 FOCUS AREAS: Public health infrastructure for a post-pandemic Colorado; distributing vaccines; making the case for public health funding; policies to reduce chronic disease burden in Colorado.


Connecting Systems (Technology for Health)

Data and technology play an essential role in connecting us to services and in helping us understand what’s working — and what’s not — in our health care system. CHI advances policies and practices that support a connected, secure system of health care and community providers focused on improving quality and outcomes.


2021 FOCUS AREAS: Using technology to track COVID-19 spread at the local level; building and implementing social health information exchange (S-HIE) in Colorado; how technology and infrastructure can support value-based care.

Support Our Work

Through the Health Agenda and our community-focused work, the Colorado Health Institute continues to make concrete contributions to Colorado’s health, enabling local organizations to best serve their communities, supporting smart policy choices, and improving health for all Coloradans. But we cannot do this work without help. To learn more about our commitment to working for the public good or to discuss how you can support the research and activities outlined above, which depend on philanthropic partnership, visit or contact us at 303.831.4200 or 

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