The recent Community Health Needs Assessment for Berks County details a troubling state of health for city residents in general and city Latinos in particular.
The study found that impoverished people, blacks and especially Latinos are at higher risk for a multitude of health problems including obesity, diabetes and lack of insurance.
Couple that with the Census Bureau reporting that 45.9 percent of Hispanics in Reading are living in poverty, and the outlook is grim.
"There are two views of the cultural gap," said Dr. Ivan Torres, who was on the community advisory committee for the report and is a former professor of behavioral sciences at Reading Area Community College. "One gap is cultural, linguistic and ethnic. And the second view, which is the socioeconomic view, is equally as important."
The combination of poverty and language barriers proves to be a formidable opponent for Latinos, he said.
"The truth of the matter is that we (Latinos) have the greatest number of problems, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and hepatitis C," Torres said. "All of the major problems, which are preventable for the most part, really weigh heavily on the lowest socioeconomic groups."
The report found 28 percent of Berks County Latinos have high blood pressure, 15 percent have diabetes and more than 70 percent are overweight or obese.
Nearly 8,000 Latino adults needed health care in the past year but did not receive care due to cost, according to the report. Also, more than a fifth of Latinos did not purchase prescribed medication due to cost, while a fourth of Latinos have no public or private health insurance.
The report projects Latinos will make up more than 70 percent of the city population by 2018. However, Torres said that with time and generational assimilation, these problems likely will decrease.
"The general perspective is that when the Latino population becomes more amalgamated and more accessible to the larger community, what we are going to see is going to be a shift," Torres said. "People are going to be more accountable for their own actions.
"They (Latinos) are going to reshape the population at large and Latinos are going to have more culturally competent resources to turn to."
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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