COVID-19 Reveals Racial Health Disparities

Dear Supporters,

I’m sure most of you know, but this issue is very personal to me because of how long I’ve worked on public health issues and because I am a black diabetic, I am at risk of becoming one of the statistics mentioned in this report. Because of that, I am very proud to be the Chair of the Legislative Study Group, which has always had a dedicated group of members who have fiercely worked towards the elimination of health disparities caused by social determinants.
During the Clinton Administration, I and fellow LSG members worked to implement Surgeon General David Satcher’s vision of zero disparities and 100% coverage. We worked to create the Office of Minority Health and Cultural Competency, and through the Budget required state health agencies to keep track of racial and ethnic data on diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. I also passed the bill in 2001 to create the Health Disparities Task Force to ensure that all the different health agencies and authorities in Texas would work together towards eliminating health disparities.
In 2005—after the 2003 consolidation and reorganization of Texas’ health agencies by the Republicans—LSG members worked together to put the Health Disparities Task Force back together as the Interagency Council for Addressing Disproportionality. LSG members worked through the budget process to keep the Council—which was renamed The Office of Minority Health Statistics and Engagement (OMHSE) —together until 2018, five years beyond its 2013 expiration date. All LSG members should be proud of the work the OMSHE and its predecessors did to reduce health disparities. Regrettably, it has taken the COVID-19 pandemic to wake up some in this state and country to the fact that it still is sorely needed.
To help the LSG and its members work on this important issue, I have sent a letter to Commissioner Hellerstedt requesting that DSHS collect all data related to COVID-19 by race and ethnicity, including infection rates, hospitalization rates, ICU rates, death rates, and other relevant data.
Please click here or read below for the LSG’s report on COVID-19 and racial disparities.
Garnet F. Coleman
Chair, Legislative Study Group

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