Advocates Rally Around Sánchez Health Disparities Bill

Advocates Rally Around Sánchez Health Disparities Bill

Coalition Shows Support for Health Care Financing Committee Chairman Sánchez’ bill, An Act to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities in the Commonwealth

BOSTON— A diverse coalition of community advocates, health care professionals and public officials appeared before the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing today in a show of support for legislation which seeks to address racial and ethnic health disparities by establishing an state Office of Health Equity.

The bill, sponsored by the House Chair of the Committee on Health Care Financing, Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, would task the Office of Health Equity with: coordinating the various state policies to address health disparities; evaluating the effectiveness of policies; and setting state goals and reporting annually on progress made towards reducing health disparities in the Commonwealth.

“Even with all of our successes in health care reform, focused on access, affordability and quality, there remain pervasive and persistent racial and ethnic disparities in health care status and outcomes,” Sánchez said.

Studies have shown that socio-economic, behavioral, and environmental factors account for 80% of overall health status. Social factors, such as income, housing, and education are the greatest determinants of individual health.  “While we have made some progress with initiatives to address these factors, these efforts tend to lack coordination and long-term planning. A dedicated Office of Health Equity can provide a framework for coordinating these existing programs and optimize our efforts across multiple agencies,” Sánchez explained.

This legislation was filed in response to recommendations from the 2007 Commission to End Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, which was tasked with examining state and national data on ethnic and racial health disparities and evaluating current public and private programs and policies. A key recommendation of the Commission was the establishment of a state office to support a sustained effort to eliminate ethnic and racial health disparities and coordinate public and private actions to address the social determinants of health.

Organizations that offered testimony in support today include: Boston Public Health Commission; Cambridge Health Alliance; Disparities Action Network; Cancer Action Network; Asian Women for Health; Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers; Massachusetts Community Action Network; Healthcare for All; Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association; Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts; Massachusetts Public Health Association; ACT!! Coalition; Better Oral Health Massachusetts Coalition; Medical Legal Partnerships Boston and Providence; Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts; American Heart / Stroke Association; National Multiple Sclerosis Society – Greater New England Chapter; American Lung Association of Massachusetts.

Eliminating Health Disparities

An Act to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities in the Commonwealth      

 H622, Lead Sponsor: Representative Jeffrey Sánchez & Representative Byron Rushing


This bill establishes a permanent Office of Health Equity in the

Executive Office of Health and Human Services to focus on the reduction of racial & ethnic health disparities throughout the state.


The Office of Health Equity will oversee all activities of the Commonwealth to eliminate health disparities, by coordinating interagency initiatives, evaluating interventions, and identifying and replicating successful practices across the state.


  • Creating a state center for the elimination of Health Disparities was the topmost recommendation of the 2007 Massachusetts Commission on Racial & Ethnic Minority Health Disparities legislative report.
  • Massachusetts residents of color face disproportionately higher rates of chronic disease and mortality than residents of the state as a whole.
  • Disparities exist between racial & ethnic groups, even when health insurance coverage is equal.
  • Health disparities cost the state in excess direct medical costs and indirect social costs.
  • Poor access to health care plays only a small role in any disparity.
  • Health disparities result from a variety of social factors including economics and employment, neighborhoods and housing, educational opportunities, bias and discrimination.


How much does this Bill cost?

  • It is cost neutral. In 2014, House Ways & Means specifically noted it would not cost the state additional dollars.

Why focus on Racial & Ethnic Minorities?

  • Historically, societal efforts to help the general population have led to people of color and their specific needs being set aside. It’s time to put their needs front & center, not at the back of the bus.
  • Racial and ethnic/minority status has a compounding effect on other populations that experience healthcare access and outcome inequities, including people with physical, developmental and behavioral health conditions.
  • The Office will first focus on eliminating these and “other adverse health conditions” disparities within and among people of color, then expand its purview to other groups.

What is the history of this bill in prior sessions?

  • The bill was introduced as two bills in January 2009 by Senator Fargo and Representative Rushing. In 2011, Senator Fargo and Rep. Rushing & Sanchez jointly introduced it. In 2013, Senator Barrett introduced it with Sanchez & Rushing; in 2015 Sen. Lewis stepped in with Rushing & Sanchez.
  • Both Chambers passed different versions of this bill in 2016: now is the time to together recognize the needs of ethnic & racial minorities and pass it jointly!
    DAN Member Organizations
  • Action for Boston Community Development, Inc.
  • African Community Health Initiatives
  • AIDS Action Committee
  • Alliance for Community Health
  • American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
  • American Diabetes Association
  • American Heart/American Stroke Association
  • American Lung Association
  • American Red Cross of Massachusetts Bay
  • Arc of Massachusetts
  • Association of Haitian Pastors
  • Association of Haitian Women
  • Berkshire Area Health Education Center
  • Boston Center for Community & Justice
  • Boston Medical Center Haitian Health Institute
  • Boston Public Health Commission
  • Boston University Center for Excellence in Women's Health
  • Boston Urban Asthma Coalition
  • Cambridge Health Alliance
  • Caring Health Center
  • Center for Community Health Education Research and Service
  • Children’s Health Access Coalition
  • Community Catalyst
  • Community Change Inc.
  • Conference on Boston Teaching Hospitals
  • Critical MASS
  • Disability Policy Consortium
  • Greater Lawrence Family Health Center
  • Haitian Multi-Service Center
  • Haitian Nurses Association
  • Health Care For All
  • Health Disparities Student Collaborative
  • Health Resources in Action, Inc.
  • International Medical Interpreters Association
  • Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action
  • La Alianza Hispana
  • Latin American Health Institute
  • The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights     Under Law of the Boston Bar Association
  • Lowell Community Health Center
  • Lynn Health Task Force
  • Massachusetts Asian and Pacific Islanders for Health
  • Massachusetts Association of Community Health Workers
  • Massachusetts Association of School-Based Health Care, Inc.
  • Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition
  • Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women
  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Disparities Solutions Center
  • Massachusetts Health Council
  • Massachusetts Hospital Association
  • Massachusetts Jobs With Justice
  • Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers
  • Massachusetts Medical Society
  • Massachusetts Public Health Association
  • Medical-Legal Partnership for Children
  • Multicultural AIDS Coalition
  • Mass CONECT, Harvard School of Public Health
  • NAACP Boston Branch
  • NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts
  • ¿Oíste?
  • Oral Health Advocacy Task Force
  • Physicians for Human Rights
  • Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts
  • SEIU 1199
  • Susan G. Komen for the Cure Massachusetts
  • Tobacco Free Mass
  • Vietnamese American Civic Association
  • Whittier Street Health Center
  • YMCA of Greater Worcester, Central Community Branch
  • Youth and Family Enrichment Service



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