Thank you Chairwoman Alexander and thank you to all of the witnesses here to testify today on Bill 20-572, the “Commission on Health Disparities Establishment Act of 2013.”

The District of Columbia has the seventh highest incidence rate and the highest death rate from breast cancer in the United States. And although the incidence rate for breast cancer is higher for white women in this city, African-American women from Wards 5, 6, 7, and 8 are overrepresented among those dying from the disease.

Even more troubling, African American women in the District are showing up for treatment with advanced breast cancer at rates that are almost double the national average. 

In a report published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 2013, it was found that D.C. residents died at a higher rate from preventable heart attacks than any other jurisdiction in the country. 

The CDC report found that, in the District, the rate of avoidable deaths from heart disease, stroke and hypertensive disease was 99.6% per 100,000 population.  The most affected demographic was African-American males ranging in age from 65-74.

These disparities are also found when we discuss behavioral health.  A few years ago there was only one child psychiatrist that was east of the River.  Additionally, 35 percent of the District’s transgender population has experienced suicidal ideation while 39 percent do not have a physician for routine health care as reported by the DC Center for the LGBT Community.

Further, 58 percent of the District’s African-American males having sex with other males are living with HIV, which is significantly higher than the national average at 29 percent. 

We cannot allow these disparities to persist in our communities.  In February, the Department of Health compiled a very comprehensive Community Health Needs Assessment, the first of its kind for the District and I want to applaud the Department for this effort.

All District residents, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity deserve access to quality physicians, screenings and treatment.  I will continue to follow this issue very closely and I am eager to hear from and engage with the witnesses in the discussion to follow.