Dear Fellow Houstonians:
The Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) is committed towards
eliminating health disparities for vulnerable populations as defined by race/ethnicity, socio-
economic status, geography, gender, age, disability status, and risk status related to sex and
gender. Health disparities are defined as differences in health conditions which exist between
specific population groups, resulting in one group having a disproportionate burden of
disease, disability, or premature death.
The purpose of the HDHHS is to protect and promote the health and well-being of all
Houston residents through advocacy, education, and community-based health services.
Houston is both the largest city in Texas and fourth largest city in the United States; a
growing, diverse city with a vibrant economy in industries of energy, production, processing,
science, medicine, and technology. The Texas Medical Center is one of the largest
concentrations of hospitals and medical teaching facilities in the nation, and is renowned as a
leader in research, education, and medical treatment. Despite the gains in overall health care
and public health, not all Houstonians have seen the same benefits in improved health
The HDHHS, in conjunction with local, statewide, and national efforts, is committed to
eliminating health disparities among vulnerable populations. Mayor Bill White and other
community and health care leaders are working to address this important social justice issue.
Eliminating health disparities will require efforts to address the persistent racial, economic,
and other social challenges that lead to inequitable health outcomes. Investing in the health of
Houstonians must begin with improving access to quality preventive health services, creating
conditions for socially and physically healthy communities, reducing poverty and other social
inequities, and promoting healthy lifestyles. This requires an understanding of the vulnerable
groups in Houston and the risk factors which affect each group.
This report is the first in a series designed to foster concrete and actionable change. We hope
it will promote coordinated efforts amongst all our health and community partners to
highlight and help address the glaring social health inequities uncovered in this report.
Stephen L. Williams, M.Ed., M.P.A.
Houston Department of Health and Human Services