SECTION 1. The General Court finds and declares that:
(a) disparities in health and health care are widespread in Massachusetts, and such inequalities compromise the health and well being of racial and ethnic minorities, and impact all Massachusetts residents;
(b) health disparities result from a range of social and economic factors that are not limited to healthcare, but also include education and employment, neighborhoods and housing, bias, discrimination and a variety of social determinants;
(c) addressing health disparities for racial and ethnic minorities is important to eliminating disparities for other underserved populations including affected gender groups, sexual minorities, geographically isolated communities and persons with disabilities; and
(d) an effective state strategy to eliminate disparities must be comprehensive and include interventions that coordinate policies and efforts across state systems, agencies, and programs
SECTION 2. Section 16 of Chapter 6A of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after the words “(7) the health facilities appeal board,” the following: –
(8) the office of health equity.
SECTION 3. The second sentence of the first paragraph of Section 16O of Chapter 6A of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after the words, “The council shall make recommendations,” the following:- to the director of the office of health equity.
SECTION 4. The first sentence of the second paragraph of Section 16O of Chapter 6A of the General Laws is hereby amended by striking the figure “34” and inserting in place thereof the following:- 35, and by inserting after the words “secretary of health and human services,” the following:- the director of the office of health equity,.
SECTION 5. Chapter 6A of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 16S the following section: –
SECTION 16T. There shall be an office of health equity within the executive office of health and human services. The office shall be in the charge of a director, who shall report directly to the secretary of health and human services. The health disparities council, described in section 160, shall serve as an advisory board to the office of health equity.
SECTION 6. The General Laws are hereby amended by inserting after Chapter 111M the following chapter:–
OFFICE OF HEALTH EQUITY.
Section 1. As used in this chapter, the following words shall, unless the context clearly requires otherwise, have the following meanings: –
“Disparities” or “Racial and Ethnic Health and Health Care Disparities”, differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of diseases and other adverse health conditions that exist among specific racial and ethnic groups.
“Office”, the office of health equity, as created in section 16T of chapter 6A.
Section 2. The office shall coordinate all activities of the commonwealth to eliminate racial and ethnic health and health care disparities. The office shall set goals for the reduction of disparities, and prepare an annual plan for the commonwealth to eliminate disparities.
Section 3. The office shall collaborate with other state agencies of the commonwealth on disparities reduction initiatives to address the social factors that influence health inequality. These state agencies shall include, but are not limited to, the executive offices of health and human services, housing and economic development, public safety, energy and environmental affairs, transportation and public works, labor and workforce development, and education.
The Office shall facilitate between these agencies, communication and partnership to develop greater understanding of the intersections between agency activities and health outcomes. The Office will facilitate development of interagency initiatives to address the social and economic determinants of health and key health disparities issues such as but not limited to healthcare access and quality; housing availability and quality; transportation availability, location and cost; community policing and safe spaces; air, water. and land usage and quality; employment and workforce development; and education access and quality.
Section 4. The Office shall evaluate effectiveness of programs and interventions to eliminate health disparities, identifying best practices and model programs for the state.
Section 5. The secretary of health and human services shall annually, on the day assigned for submission of the budget to the general court pursuant to section 7H of chapter 29, designate major initiatives of the Commonwealth affecting the health and health care of residents of the Commonwealth. Such initiatives may include any activity of the Commonwealth, including, but not limited to, activities of the executive offices of health and human services, housing and economic development, public safety, energy and environment, transportation and public works, labor and workforce development, and education.
For each such major initiative, the office shall prepare a disparities impact statement evaluating the likely positive or negative impact of each initiative on eliminating or reducing racial and ethnic health disparities. The statements shall, to the extent possible, include quantifiable impacts and evaluation benchmarks. The statements shall be posted on the internet site of the executive office of health and human services and submitted to the clerks of the house and senate, members of the health disparities council, appropriate legislative committees, and the house and senate committees on ways and means.
Section 6. The office shall prepare an annual health disparities report card. The report card shall evaluate the progress of the commonwealth towards eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities, using, where possible, quantifiable measures and comparative benchmarks. The report card shall report on progress on a regional basis, based on regions designated by the office. The office shall hold public hearings in several regions of the state to get public information on the topics of the report card. The report card shall be delivered to the governor, speaker of the house of representatives and president of the senate and the members of the health disparities council, created under section 16O of Chapter 6A, before July 1 each year, and shall be posted on an internet site of the office or executive office of health and human services.
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