Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has announced new funding for Texas Southern University to address health disparities.
$2 million will go toward the nation's first Center for Transformative Health. Jackson Lee says the new center aims to tackle underlying conditions which disproportionately affect people of color.
"The numbers of individuals with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and any number of underlying conditions, which evidenced the loss of life during the pandemic, are right here," she said. "Real, in our communities."
The center was first announced by Houston mayor Sylvester Turner during his winter commencement address. TSU plans to strengthen and enhance conditions that promote health through research, community engagement, and education.
TSU's new center plans on implementing local programs to prevent chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. They will also continue to analyze lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic for future public health emergencies.
"In minority communities, the pandemic has been a magnifier for common health problems underscoring the need for a public health agenda beyond COVID-19," said Center for Transformative Health Executive Director Zuri Dale on the TSU website.
The center is being created with healthcare deserts in mind, which happen when a community does not have easy access to healthcare.
U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries says people of color are disproportionately affected by healthcare deserts.
"More African-Americans (are) dying from drive-thrus, the lack of access to healthy food, than drive-bys," he said.
Jeffries said communities with a lack of healthcare facilities worsen with the impact of a poor diet. The Center for Transformative Health will aim to help these under-served communities.