The last few days at the annual conference for the National Council de La Raza have been an enlightening experience. On Friday, I shared some fascinating facts about the political strength of the Latino community. Today, I want to discuss Sunday's health town hall, which covered ways to eliminate health disparities within the Latino community. At the event entitled, !Salud! Eliminating Disparities that Block Good Health Among Latinos, panelists from multiple organizations, including the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Cancer Society, highlighted current efforts to help transform the way Latinos view their health and the societal factors that impede their access to equitable care.
According to acting director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Dr. Nadine Gracia,compared to their non-Hispanic counterparts, Latinos living in the United States suffer from a higher incidence of and mortality rate from many preventable chronic and infectious diseases, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. A 2011 report by the Center for Disease Control found that Latinos fared worse than whites on 60% of the report's measures of access to care. Gracia noted that in addition to being less likely to receive preventive care, when Hispanics do have access to health care, the quality of the care tends to be lower. In order to address these disparities, panelists made a number of suggestions, including:
- Development of political awareness and legislative action
- Cultivation of cultural competency among health care providers
- Promotion of cultural norms that nurture positive health decisions
- Support for greater access to healthy foods and safe, convenient places to exercise in Latino communities
Health disparities among minority groups rank among the greatest health care challenges of the 21st century; however, these disparities affect every American--regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status. We look forward to continuing our work with NCLR and other organizations to find ways to address the problems surrounding access to health care.