No objections from lawmakers during hearing on health equity office bill

Investigations
House Public Health Committee Hearing

House Public Health Committee meeting during the 2021 legislative session (Erin Cargile/KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas lawmakers on the House Public Health Committee heard testimony Wednesday morning on a bill that aims to reestablish the state’s Office of Health Equity.

It’s an issue KXAN has been following since our initial investigation last fall.

The office would be dedicated to reducing disparities and improve health outcomes for minorities across the state based on a number of factors including race, gender and socioeconomic status.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) sits on the committee and also filed HB 4139. Two people testified, and both were from the University of Texas at Austin.

Octavio Martinez, the executive director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, told lawmakers there is a “lack of complete and accurate data” on racial and health disparities in the state. He ended his remarks by saying “without measurement there is no accountability.”

UT professor Dr. Kevin Cokley also testified in favor of the legislation. He specializes in African American psychology, and said the Office of Health Equity is best positioned to free Texas of health disparities, and become a leader to other states in this realm.

Coleman told the committee there is money from the federal government to recreate the office, and added “we will figure out how to do that.” He told KXAN last week it would eliminate the need to dip into the state’s general fund.

There were no comments, questions or objections from other lawmakers during the hearing. The bill was left pending.

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