Latinos and Health Care

LATINA Style Magazine, Vol. 20, No. 3
By Elena Rios, M.D., M.S.P.H., President of the National Hispanic Health Foundation

The White House recently announced that 10 percent of the 14 percent of eligible Latinos signed-up for more affordable health insurance in the Marketplace run by the federal government, or in the case of 17 states, run by states. There were more Latinos who signed up for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance, so given the website debacle, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a huge success for access to health, wellness and prevention services for Latinos.

Now that we have Latinos interested in healthcare, the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA), which represents 50,000 physicians in the U.S., is asking you to educate your friends on how to live healthier lives. The NHMA’s foundation, the National Hispanic Health Foundation, held State Summits in 2013 supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation with 200 community and government leaders in New York and California to improve the ACA prevention programs to reduce early childhood obesity.

We recommend schools increase awareness of students and parents about the importance of physical activity in daily activities and nutrition and enforce state laws; Support nutritious food and beverages and support free drinking water; Require teachers to educate parents about mandated health appraisals of their children; Enhance School-Based clinic policies in the ACA.

We recommend that we mobilize the community around the ACA with Town Hall Meetings and build awareness about prevention services through the internet, TV, phone calls, community programs like the Saturday Family Adventure,  for doctors’ offices to open enrollment for child wellness, community gatherings – raffles, and metro cards.

• Build linkages that increase the number of community agencies that go through the application and enrollment training process to increase chances our community will obtain services they are eligible for.

• Train elected officials about the importance of changing behavior about obesity by informing them about the importance to increase community access to nutritious food and drink; Increase green carts with affordable pricing and vending machines with healthy water and decrease sugary drinks.

• Develop targeted education and outreach with the Latino community about the ACA.

• Community Functions: fiestas, parades, health fairs, sport events.

• Community Places: head start, child care, schools, hair salons, barber shops, grocery stores, post offices, churches, cleaners, libraries, pharmacies, restaurants/fast food outlets, stores/malls.

• Support promotoras role as key to consumer education in nutrition programs: WIC, Snap-Ed, School Meals, MCH Home.

• Support policies for “Safe Routes to School” – sidewalks, crosswalks, walking groups, lighting and landscaping for safety, “eyes on the street”, bike paths.

We recommend that we develop social media apps, chats and the support of campaigns that focus on obesity reduction interventions on TV, radio, and internet with simple messages about costs and benefits of prevention of obesity and the consequences of diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and stroke and ban advertising of unhealthy food and beverages to children.

We recommend health care providers support self-management and empowerment of patients as key to reducing obesity: this includes teaching, training, education, andpartnering with other healthcare workers.

We recommend we continue to support government programs such as WIC, a key program to reach parents and should be supplemented with financial literacy, food insecurity, how people buy groceries and should be able to buy more nutritious food, not the less nutritious food bought in bulk.

• Continue to support major media and educational campaign about the Affordable Care Act.

We recommend provider education about ACA and new reimbursement of child obesity counseling, including BMI measure.

The government should continue to support counseling programs for Latino students, and health professions schools through STEM programs in the Department of Education, NSF, NIH, HRSA.