|On Wednesday, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston City Council approved $1 million over three years to fund the establishment of the Texas Southern University’s Center of Transformative Health. The mission of the center is to use evidence-based practices to reconstruct, strengthen and enhance the conditions that promote health. We achieve this by building community capacity to ensure equitable health outcomes for all through research, engagement, and education.
The initiative will represent a collaboration between TSU and the Houston Health Department. The center will help design an array of health projects giving at-risk Houstonians more opportunities to prevent or better manage chronic illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and mental health.
Statistics have shown that Black and Brown communities and people living in urban settings were hit hardest and suffered the most during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Through the Complete Communities Health Equity Response (HER) Task Force, my administration witnessed firsthand how the pandemic was a magnifier for common health problems underscoring the need for a public health agenda beyond COVID and necessitating ongoing and intentional planning to prevent and manage disease occurrence in order to transform lives and reduce the impact on Houston’s economic competitiveness,” stated Mayor Sylvester Turner.
The agreement unanimously approved by City Council will enable the center to draw up blueprints and seek additional federal, state, and private funding for projects that increase access to health education, disease self-management classes, healthy food options, health screenings for chronic diseases and mental health resources in primarily underserved communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need to tackle chronic illnesses, especially in Black and Hispanic communities. The two minorities were hit the hardest by the pandemic. People with chronic diseases are at higher risk of severe illness or death due to COVID-19 infection.
Obesity places these populations further at risk of chronic diseases. Thirty-nine percent of adults in the Houston area are obese with Hispanics at 43.5 percent and Blacks at 41.2 percent.
The initiative will take into consideration the lessons learned during the pandemic and prepare TSU to assist the health department in future public health emergencies. Focus areas for the center will include:
- Infectious Diseases and Molecular Genetics
- Preventive Health
- Pandemic Surveillance and Response
- Maternal and Child Health
- Nutritional Sciences and Dietetics
- Mental Health, and
- Educational Programs.
The university will use a research-based approach to assist with public health disaster response through planning, outreach and training exercises. It will also provide clinical laboratory support and sponsor community symposiums and large-scale community engagement and health-related events.