Florida Health Agencies Led By Black Women

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed two Black [sic] women to lead major state health agencies.

  • Shevaun Harr now leads the Department of Children and Families.
  • Simone Marstiller is the new secretary of the Agency of Health Care Administration.
  • Add Dr. Shamarial Roberson, the Department of Health’s deputy secretary for health, to the list, and Black women are at or near the top of three major state health agencies.

DeSantis made the appointments as the pandemic forced a national reckoning on inequities in the American health care system. Black Floridians face myriad challenges.

While being infected and hospitalized with COVID-19 at disproportionately high rates, they’re also underrepresented among those getting vaccinated statewide.

The coronavirus pandemic only exacerbated inequities that have spanned decades. Acute mental health issues, high death rates from cancer, and severe complications from childbirth all burden Black Floridians disproportionately.

Among reasons for these cited by experts are:

  • income and insurance disparities;
  • the health care system’s inherent racial biases;
  • the stress that comes with navigating decades of racism.
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Experts and Florida officials say representation matters. Harris, Marstiller, and Roberson bring diverse perspectives that could leave the state better equipped to fight these challenges, they say.

Marstiller, the new secretary for the Agency of Health Care Administration, which administers the state’s Medicaid program and regulates more than 48,000 health care facilities, said:

“I give (DeSantis) all credit for making the appointments that he has made. It’s important for people to see diversity among their state leaders.”

DeSantis is “recognizing talent,” said Haywood Brown, who until April 2 was the University of South Florida’s vice president of institutional equity.

In that capacity, Brown, an obstetrician-gynecologist by trade, led the university’s diversity and inclusion efforts both on campus and in the community.

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In a state like Florida, “you have to have a talented, diverse pool of individuals” … Click here to read more. 

Is the appointment of three black women to lead Florida health agencies an example of diversity – or a contradiction of it?  Comment below. 

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