TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law on June 17, creating a new office in the Department of Health to study health outcome inequalities and access to healthcare for minorities in the state.

The newly signed HB 183 creates the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, effective July 1, 2021, to “develop and promote statewide implementation of policies, programs, and practices that increase health equity in this state, including, but not limited to, increased access to and quality of health care services for racial and ethnic minority populations.”

Once the Office is created, a representative from each county health department will serve as a liaison to the new office to help with implementation. By coordinating with other state agencies, the office will work to accomplish seven health and education goals across Florida to improve conditions for the state’s minority communities.

Those goals, as described in the bill are:

  • To gather and analyze data regarding differences in health status, health outcomes, quality of care, and access to health services for racial and ethnic minorities in Florida
  • Develop mechanisms to better provide information and education about health disparities among minorities to lead to improved access and delivery of health services to those residents
  • Support minority health liaisons by facilitating access to, and the exchange of, information related to health promotion, preventive health services, and education about appropriate use of care
  • Develop initiatives between programs, including but not limited to, maternal health, child health, HIV, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and to help mitigate health disparities for racial and ethnic minorities
  • Promote evaluations of demonstration projects and provide evaluation findings to improve the chance of success and sustainability of policies that increase health equity across Florida
  • Use community health workers to improve the cultural competency of services and build both individual and community self-sufficiency
  • Develop programs that increase access to health services for individuals with limited proficiency in English, including those with disabilities

To assist with efforts to implement the program goals, the DOH will be required to publish data, yearly, about health disparities and issues affecting racial and ethnic minorities in Florida on its website, FloridaHealth.gov.

Additionally, the DOH will be required to provide information about what resources are available to racial and ethnic minorities, as well as links to those resources.

DOH will also have to present resources for providers who want to “improve cultural competency, understand health disparities, and increase the quality of and access to health care services for racial and ethnic minority populations in this state.”

Those resources will have to include minority health literature, research and referrals, as well as capacity-building and technical assistance services and training materials used to implement nationally recognized evidence-based practices for culturally and linguistically appropriate health care services.

The DOH will also have contact information available for local minority health liaisons, and the office itself will serve as a liaison and assistant to the federal Office of Minority Health and Regional Health Operations, as needed.

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