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7/1/2011 New law establishes health advocacy, equity commission
Legislation sponsored by Sen. Juan M. Pichardo and Rep. Donna M. Walsh creating a Commission on Health Advocacy and Equity has been signed into law by the governor.

The commission will coordinate and communicate with state agencies of transportation, housing, environment, planning, labor and education to develop a comprehensive equity plan to eliminate disparities.

Despite numerous programs and efforts, the state of Rhode Island continues to rank among the worst in the nation for disparities in health care, said the bill’s sponsors. In 2010, America’s Health Rankings reported Rhode Island to have the highest rate of health care disparities in New England.

“We have been talking about disparities in health care in our state for over two decades and little progress has been made, partly because there is little understanding of the causes of these inequities,” said Senator Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence), who has been a longtime champion of efforts to improve health care for all Rhode Islanders. “Our current health care system is fragmented and agencies often operate in isolation when they need to work together to share important information and records. This commission will play a vital role in coordinating and evaluating our system to best allocate the limited and valuable resources we do have.”

“The constitution of the World Health Organization reads: The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition,” said Representative Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly). “It is well known that minorities suffer from higher rates of mortality and illness from common diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. In order to remove existing barriers to better health for everyone, we must create a collaborative approach that involves all stakeholders.”

The 20-member commission will be responsible for developing a biannual disparities impact and evaluation report to be presented to the governor and General Assembly and acting in an advisory capacity to state agencies. It will also make recommendations to develop a more ethically diverse health care workforce that would have knowledge of the communities it serves. The workforce will be able to help families access appropriate services that are not only related to health, but also to social, educational and legal needs.

For more information, contact:
Shana Mancinho, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2457