News Column

Hispanic Health Costs Will Impact U.S. Economy

July 16, 2014

Susan Abram, Daily News

Health care costs among Hispanics could have much larger economic repercussions (file photo)
Health care costs among Hispanics could have much larger economic repercussions (file photo)

July 16--The cost and rates of chronic disease are rising steadily among millions of Latinos nationwide, which will have a profound economic impact on the United States unless access to care improves, authors of a report released Tuesday found.

The report, a first of its kind national survey produced by the National Council of La Raza, found that among Latinos with or without health insurance, multiple barriers to manage diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and asthma, continue to exist, including transportation to and from health centers, language and cultural issues and feelings of discrimination.

Those issues need to be addressed because Latinos are among the fastest-growing segment of the American population and will represent nearly one-third of all U.S. workers by 2050, said Delia Pompa, senior vice president of programs for the National Council of La Raza, or NCLR.

"The ability of our nation to meet the economic demands of the future is closely tied to the health of this community," Pompa said. "Affordable health insurance and access to high-quality medical care and information is vital to improving their lives."

The report was produced with support from Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc and help from public health consulting firm John Snow Inc. More than 1,000 patients from eight National Council of La Raza affiliated organizations in several states took surveys between June and August 2013. Patients were between 18 and 64 years old and self-identified as Hispanic/Latino.

Among the findings:

--Sixty percent of those who responded were told by a doctor that they have a chronic disease.

--Of those surveyed, 25 percent had visited a hospital emergency room for a chronic related disease in the last 12 months.

--About 75 percent of survey respondents were either overweight or obese.

"The participants of the survey are accessing health care but to manage a chronic disease is a complicated or complex problem that needs more than 15 minutes of interaction with a provider," said Manuela McDonough, associate director of the Institute for Hispanic Health at the National Council of La Raza. "Our affiliates are doing the best job they can. But they are understaffed and underfunded and can't meet the demands of this growing population."

Some of those surveyed were patients of the Southern California-based AltaMed, which runs a network of federally funded community clinics in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

The community clinics are geographically located in underserved areas, but income, poverty and cultural beliefs about mammograms, for example, contribute to the disparity gaps, regardless of health insurance coverage, said Dr. Martin Serota, chief medical officer at AltaMed.

"It doesn't mean we can't close the gap, but it means we have to work harder to close the gap," Serota said.

Serota and others agreed that even as more Latinos attain health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, it won't make a difference if they can't or won't access care. At the same time, community centers need to meet the demands.

"We've been able to staff accordingly, but whether we'll be able to keep up with demands is unclear," Serota said. "There are certain positions that are hard to fill. We struggle to find bilingual RNs, bilingual social workers."

However, providers are optimistic about the Affordable Care Act, despite the challenges, he said.

"At our clinics every day, we have patients with insurance who are newly engaged in their health care," he said.

Among the recommendations made in the report is to encourage and support the work of promotoras, or health promoters in communities that can offer education and find services for those who need helping managing chronic conditions, Serota said.

The report and other issues will be among the topics discussed at the National Council of La Raza's annual conference, which begins on Saturday at the La Convention Center. A town hall discussion on the uninsured will begin at 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles.

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(c)2014 the Daily News (Los Angeles)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

Original headline: Chronic disease on the rise among Latino population



Source: (c)2014 the Daily News (Los Angeles)


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