Office of Equity highlights recent wins in racism battle

Earlier this week, the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Health Equity updated community members on several key initiatives and new legislation that will help improve equity in the commonwealth, including a bill that recognizes racism as a public health crisis


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Kasongo Butler, program manager for Elite Business Strategies, said her organization is working with community groups to find the best way to educate minority populations about the safety and importance of vaccines.

“We are going to door-to-door, we are working with leaders in the community and we register people to get vaccinated. We are looking to hire teams of about 20 people in each area.”

Joe Hilbert, deputy commissioner for governmental and regulatory affairs at the Virginia Department of Health, shared a list of recently passed bills that will impact health policy in the years ahead.

  • HJR 537  recognizes racism as a public health crisis in Virginia. It encourages state agencies, including the Virginia Department of Health and its Office of Health Equity, to consider steps to address systemic racism and its impact on public health.
  • HB 1993 The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan requires state agencies to establish and maintain a comprehensive diversity, equity and inclusion strategy plan in coordination with the governor’s directive.
  • HB 2333 Requires the Department of Health to establish a program so volunteers can administer the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Budget item 307 #4C requires the Commissioner of Health to establish a doula certification task force to assist with the certification process of doulas.
  • Budget item 304 #1c provides $250,000 for the Virginia Department of Health to test school drinking water for lead.
  • HB 2111 Directs the state health commissioner to establish the Task Force on Maternal Health Data and Quality Measures to evaluate health data collection processes and to guide policies in the commonwealth to improve maternal health outcomes for all in the commonwealth.
  • HB 1950 establishes a fetal and infant mortality review team.
  • The Henrietta Lacks Commission, which is working to establish a medical and cancer research center in Halifax Country, has been given another five years to do its work. It was set to end on July 1, 2021, but will now continue to July 1, 2026.