Setting the goals Ocials with the Department of Equity and Economic Opportunity laid out a timeline at a January budget hearing, though some plans may be adjusted.
and also has prime contracts with the Texas Department of Transportation, Charles said. With the new program in place, he said his rm will get more of a chance to show its expertise. He said he expects talent to prevail in the county’s decision-making process. “Theywant toworkwithpeoplewho knowwhat they’re doing,” he said. Years in themaking The Harris County Commission- ers Court rst ordered the new department to be created in January 2019. The oce will be headed by Pamela Chan, who was appointed in November. From that time on, ocials hosted meetings with community members and studied similar departments in other cities, Legette said. In its rst year, department leaders said they expect to focus on relation- ship development with communities, local businesses and M/W/DBEs. In the longer term, work could expand to include bringing more economic opportunity to individual workers, entrepreneurs and job seekers in underserved areas. “In a county as big as Harris, things vary from region to region and from precinct to precinct,” Legette said. “The priorities and the needs are prob- ably going to look a little dierent.” Morales said it will be crucial for the new oce to set clear goals and be transparent with the public in how well it meets those goals. “You have to have the proof in the pudding,” she said. “So many things have been done in the past that soundedpretty, but therewasno result. We want to see results with this.” Economic health, physical health Eorts to improve economic oppor- tunity in disadvantaged communities can have direct eects on physical health as well, said Heidi McPherson,
the senior community health director with the American Heart Association in Houston. The AHA branch worked closely with the Precinct 1 oce in setting the groundwork for the launch of the new department. Any work that involves raising incomes and promoting career development is aligned with the AHA mission of ending chronic disease, she said. “We know that if you can develop the capacity to be productive, people will have better jobs,” she said. “Bet- ter jobs have better access to health care. All of these things then align and point towards improved health and life expectancy.” McPherson, who also co-leads the Greater Houston Coalition on the Social Determinants of Health, said she expects to see the conversa- tion on equity in health care become even more of a focus in 2021, with more than 120 organizations working toward systemic solutions. “We’re doing that by addressing the social drivers of health outcomes,” she said. “When you break that down, that’s things like nutritional security, housing security. At the root of those is income and poverty.” Life expectancy rates across Har- ris County vary widely, with more socially vulnerable areas in east Hous- ton in the 65-69 range and wealthier areas such as River Oaks in the 80-90 range, according to a 2020 study released by the Harris County Public Health Department. The disparities exist in Cy-Fair as well but are less pronounced. The outer ranges of Cy-Fair, where social vulnerability is lower, have a life expectancy range between 80-84, while the areas around FM 1960 and Willowbrook range from 70-79. Dr. Esmaeil Porsa, the CEO of the Harris Health System, said an update on that report will be provided to
Year 1 (2021) budget request: $3.8 million
Equity partnerships Community engagement to spread awareness of opportunities Equity impact Work on policies to further economic opportunity, develop success metrics, future planning Equity partnerships Hire community engagement coordinators, online media team
Inclusive contracts Begin outreach and relationship development with M/WDBEs Inclusive business Hire director, begin outreach to other small businesses Inclusive business Hire economic development manager Inclusive workforce Outreach to workers, job seekers Inclusive business Outreach to tourism and real estate, entrepreneurs, startups and nancial services industries
Inclusive workforce Development of employee workforce, gig and independent workforce, and job seeker programs
SOURCE: HARRIS COUNTYCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
Across seven ZIP codes that make up the Cy-Fair area, there are:
Harris County commissioners in March. The county is looking into how to expand services in high-need areas, he said. “The emphasis is really going to be on taking the care to the commu- nity,” he said. “Part of that is looking at our community clinic infrastruc- ture. Are we in the right places? Are there opportunities in some of the geographies where we should be but currently are not?” Part of the challenge is that each community has dierent needs, McPherson said. A community’s needs can range from the need for healthy food to access to puried drinking water in schools to access to hike and bike trails. “The need is great, [but] the
opportunity is great,” she said. “It feels like collectively across the Greater Houston area, we really do have the opportunity to lead the nation.” SOURCE: CITY OF HOUSTON OFFICE OF BUSINESS OPPORTUNITYCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER 84 disadvantaged business enterprises 172 minority business enterprises 94 women business enterprises
For more information, visit communityimpact.com .
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CYFAIR EDITION • FEBRUARY 2021
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