Community Context and Challenges

  • The unemployment rate is higher in Tacoma (11%) than in Washington State (9%), while poverty rates in Tacoma among all residents (18%) exceed rates in Pierce County (13%) and Washington State (16%).

  • Historically, many of the same neighborhoods where Tacoma’s poorest residents lived have also been rife with gang violence and related crime.

  • The rate of violent crimes in Tacoma (792 per 100,000) is more than 3 times the rate in Washington State (285 per 100,000); the burglary rate in Tacoma (1,524 per 100,000) is approximately three times higher than the state rate (543 per 100,000).

  • The city lacks the capacity to treat widespread mental health challenges. Between 2010 and 2012, 21% of regional residents reported mental illness and about 5% had thought seriously about committing suicide, however between 2006 and 2010, the region lost two inpatient facilities for mental health care.
  • Direct contact with polluted soil and water toxins found in former industrial sites can have harmful effects on the eyes, skin, liver, and respiratory and central nervous systems.

Community Actions: A First Look

Today, the city of Tacoma is deeply committed to efforts that will improve the health and well-being of its residents.

Earlier efforts to make Tacoma a healthy and safe community faced overwhelming barriers, but a comprehensive planning effort underway has engaged city residents, highlighted the city’s most pressing problems, and targeted those problems with concentrated action. This targeted approach and the city’s demonstrated capacity for collective action have the potential to make Tacoma a healthier and safer city.


These baseline reports, created in 2016, reflect our initial observations on select community programs and initiatives to gauge ongoing, as well as newer, efforts to improve community health. Future reports will provide more in-depth insights and analysis into this community's activities.

Going Forward: Questions for Consideration

Tacoma has a long history of engaging residents and multisector partners to find solutions to community problems. Additional surveillance, data and information gathering, and analysis will examine some of the ways in which stakeholders are working to create a healthier, more equitable community; the impact of new and ongoing initiatives to address priority health concerns; and whether gaps are emerging in priority areas.

Additional surveillance, data and information gathering, analysis, and reporting will examine how Tacoma responds to lingering concerns, including:

  • In what ways is the city of Tacoma addressing economic disparities throughout the county?

  • What impact has Tacoma’s Community Health Improvement Plan had on improving the health of all residents? Which goals have been reached? Which goals have been reevaluated?

  • How has the city of Tacoma used information from the health equity assessment to inform activity planning?

  • To what extent have efforts by local residents and nonprofit organizations been successful in reducing the influence of gangs in Tacoma?

  • In what ways is Tacoma addressing health inequity throughout the county, and specifically among low-income residents?

  • In what ways have recent initiatives addressed the top priorities listed in the CHIP (mental health, access to health care, and chronic disease prevention)?

  • How can the success stories for smaller community-driven initiatives be scaled up to address other drivers of health and well-being?

  • To what extent are other coalitions and collaborations addressing the social, structural, and economic drivers being leveraged to consider their role in health and well-being? What are key facilitators and barriers to initiating or maintaining those linkages?