1 in 4 new jobs coming to Greater Houston will be health care related, report says

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HOUSTON, Texas -- By 2036, one in four jobs added within Greater Houston will be created through the health care sector, generating an additional $26 billion in gross domestic product, according to a new report released Oct. 28 by Center for Houston's Future, an economic research and strategic planning firm.

To arrive at its data, the Center for Houston's Future spent the last year collecting data from interviews and focus groups of more than 50 health care experts and surveys completed by some 100 executives in Greater Houston.

Greater Houston is contradictory about health, said Steven Scarborough, the lead author of the report and the center's manager of strategic initiatives, during the report's announcement event.

While the region has great hospitals, there are many who do not have access to them, Scarborough said, and there is a need for a better workforce pipeline for future health care workers.

Social factors, including a person's economic stability, neighborhood and physical environment, and even food quality, play a role in health disparities, according to the report.

"Many of these social determinants help explain why we have significant health disparities in Houston across class, racial and ethnic lines," Scarborough said. "[This is] something that's absolutely clear, as we've seen in poor and minority communities impacted by COVID-19."

In addition, failing to develop any sort of pipeline could cost the region $18.6 billion in GDP and 111,000 jobs by 2036, according to the report.

The coronavirus pandemic actually slowed the release of the report; it was originally scheduled for a March release, but the research team spent the last several months revising the report with COVID-19 in mind, Scarborough said.

A survey conducted in September shows that 59% of respondents said the pandemic has made them more likely to support an expansion of Medicaid in Texas, while 65% said they expect health care costs to rise by over 10% in the next five years.

The report also called for collaboration across the region's hospital systems and stakeholders, a message shared by panelists during a discussion immediately following the announcement of the report.

"I so often hear, 'Oh, I look forward to getting back to the way things were,' said panelist Dr. Faith Foreman-Hays, assistant director of the Houston Department of Health & Human Services. "In my mind, I'm always saying, 'I hope not. I hope that we do not go back to working in silos and working as individuals. I do hope we take what we learned from COVID to move forward and to move our city forward by using all of these new efficacious kinds of ways that can get things done that we didn't know we could get things done this way until COVID forced us to do it this way."