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Health Conference Focuses on Best Ways to Serve Hispanic Population

BY MOLLY NANCE

As the Hispanic population in the United States grows considerably larger to an estimated 47.5 million nationwide, health care services for this segment of the population is one of the major issues being addressed by elected officials, private organizations, employers and insurance companies.

To create a dialogue on serving the health-related needs of these individuals, the San Ysidro Health Center sponsored the first Latino Health Leadership Summit on Oct. 12-13 at its operations complex on 30th Street in San Diego.

The major theme of the summit was how to create effective methods for all Hispanics in California to have access to health care, whether or not they have insurance coverage.

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According to demographic research based largely on Hispanic population growth and economic conditions from the La Fe Policy & Advocacy Center in San Antonio, health disparities are increasing, and a large proportion of diseases and disorders are predicted among the Hispanic population in the next 10 to 20 years. Also, to better serve the health needs of the Hispanic population, the number of health professionals would have to triple, according to La Fe, which advances social and health policies and programs and participated in the recent Latino health conference.

Keynote speaker Jane Delgado, president and chief executive officer of Washington, D.C.-based National Alliance for Hispanic Health, the largest network of health and human service providers serving Hispanics, presented data on health concerns, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s, depression and cancer.

“Depression is pronounced, but not a lot of people talk about it,” Delgado said, citing a study conducted in Fresno County in 1998 that showed U.S.-born Mexican-Americans were twice as prone to depression as Mexican immigrants.

Delgado also noted that there is a link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s, as Mexican-Americans are 1.7 times likely to have type 2 diabetes, which often coincides with weight gain and even obesity.

To combat the issue of obesity, Diana Bont & #225;, Ph.D., a registered nurse and vice president of public affairs for Kaiser Permanente, spoke on the collaboration between Kaiser and the city of Los Angeles’ planning department to improve community access to recreational facilities by building parks for children.

Kaiser is also creating partnerships to provide places where the uninsured can go to get health care throughout San Diego County. Already, Kaiser serves the community’s health needs through the Council of Community Clinics, which represents community clinic operations throughout San Diego and Imperial counties, and through the San Ysidro Health Center, which offers a variety of medical, dental and health-related services.

“At Kaiser, our mission is really not to take care of only our members, but to try to improve the health of all the community,” Bont & #225; said, adding that a foundation for health care access can be created through the combined efforts of Kaiser’s public-private partnerships along with state and federal funding.

The issue of health care reform and proposed legislation such as Assembly Bill 8, designed to expand affordable health coverage in California by implementing a cooperative health insurance purchasing program, were also discussed during the Latino Health Leadership Summit.

Speaker Daniela Reynoso, policy coordinator for the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, an advocacy group for policies, services and conditions to improve Latino health, has been tracking the proposed legislation since it was introduced in January, but which was recently vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In a statement released by the governor’s office Schwarzenegger said, “AB 8 puts more pressure on an already broken health care system and places an unreasonable financial burden on businesses. A 7.5 percent fee would force employers to shoulder the entire burden of health care reform , a devastating blow to small business in California.”

According to Reynoso, there are an estimated 6.7 million uninsured California residents. Out of the uninsured, 21 percent have undocumented residency status, and only 3 percent of the undocumented, uninsured workers have access to employer-based insurance, said Reynoso.


Molly Nance is a freelance writer based in San Diego.

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