Equity summit highlights unequal challenges to quality health and education

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When it comes to equity across Texas, Black and Latino and rural residents face harsher conditions achieving it, based on access to good health, nutrition, quality housing and education.

Findings were presented Thursday during the first Equity Summit put on by Children at Risk, a Texas nonprofit advocacy group. Expert panelists lead nonprofits across Texas.

Marisol Chriesman with Children at Risk said 1 in 5 Texas children experiences hunger, raising their risk of falling behind in school.

“More than 18% of Latino children are at risk of hunger, compared to 12% white, non-Hispanic children,” she said. “Black households face hunger at a rate more than twice that of white non-Hispanic households, and getting enough to eat is a consistent struggle for 1 in 4 black children. Rural Texans are also disproportionately affected.”

Housing insecurity rose from 2019 to 2020.

Chriesman said for Black families, it jumped a “staggering 16%, while Hispanic households experienced a nearly 9% rise. Contrastingly, housing insecurity among white households remained steady at 18% since 2018.” 

Housing specialist and panelist Rev. Russell Hall runs Houston’s Youth Homeless Services, and said he was intimately familiar also with homelessness in Dallas because of the time he’d spent there. He acknowledged homelessness isn’t only a problem of limited housing. But in Dallas, limited housing exacerbates the problem.

“There’s either a $35,000 almost not livable type of property and there’s a $300,000 livable property,” he said, “but there’s nothing in between.”

Other worrisome statistics include maternal mortality among the state’s immigrant population. The Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee noted non-Hispanic Black families in Texas have the highest maternal mortality rate in the state, with rates increasing 10% since 2014. There was a 25% increase in MMR among the Hispanic population. There was no change in the white population.

Children at Risk also mentioned a recent rise in youth needing mental health services while the number of mental health providers simultaneously dropped in Texas.

Jerry L. Hawkins, who leads Dallas Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) urged Texas to better serve its diversifying students. Citing statistics from the Communities Foundation and Every Texan, he said the racial and ethnic composition of Dallas County is changing.

“By 2050, Black and Hispanic residents of Dallas County are projected to make up 80% of Dallas,” he said. “And all people of color would make up approximately 88% of the projected 3.3 million Dallas County residents.”

To improve communities, he said people need to feel connected through a shared vision.

“Everyone has an immigration or migration story,” he said. “Whether you’re Indigenous, a descendant of enslaved Africa, if you’re Latino…you have one of these stories. Many are the same.”

Share them, he urged.

“It builds common humanity.”


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