Texas legislation filed to reinstate office dedicated to improving minority health, decreasing disparities

Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Calls from lawmakers for reinstating the Office of Minority Health Statistics and Engagement are coming ahead of the start of the Texas Legislative session beginning Tuesday.

Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston, and Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, have drafted HB 202 to re-establish the office to try to reduce disparities and improve health outcomes for minorities across the state.

“COVID-19, maternal mortality, hypertension & heart disease, all disproportionately affect African Americans,” wrote Rep. Shawn Thierry on Twitter, explaining why she filed the bill.

The bill would include renaming the Center for Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities to the Office of Health Equity. Those in the office would work with state and federal agencies, universities, private interest groups, communities, foundations and offices of minority health to develop initiatives to decrease or eliminate health and health access disparities.

During the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers defunded the minority health statistics office due to what Rep. Coleman said was political infighting among lawmakers during the state budget process.

Coleman told KXAN in November that if the office had still been intact, the state’s response to COVID-19 racial disparities would’ve been quicker. Data shows COVID-19 has disproportionately affected people of color.

State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, said in October that she would work to reinstate the office next legislative session.

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