The State of Latin Health in the U.S.


 2020-12-03

On November 17 and 18, we were present at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) health summit #CHCISummit which is the leading non-profit and nonpartisan Hispanic organization in the United States dedicated to developing the next generation of Latino leaders.

Its page reads that “Latinos in the United States continue to grow in number and influence. It is important that the public, private and non-profit sectors think critically about how to address the health and healthcare needs of the Latino community, which now includes more than 60 million people.”

The conference seeks to raise awareness about health and the issues that surround it both in politics, practices and trends that affect the Latino community by bringing together members of Congress, corporations, opinion leaders, pharmaceutical companies and more in a high-level debate.

Diabetes and the Latin Population in the U.S.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanic Americans/Latinos, which includes people from Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South American, Central American and other Spanish cultures from all races, are more likely and have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes (17 percent) than non-Hispanic whites (8 percent). It is estimated that more than half of Hispanic/Latin American adults will develop type 2 diabetes in their adult life.

During the plenary “Racial Justice, The State of Latino Health” there was mention of the need to create systems to generate a workforce that is more similar to the population it works with.

Latinos need constant care for different health conditions: hypertension, heart disease and, in addition, COVID-19. However, fear of the virus and lack of work opportunities delay the search for medical attention in the Latino population. These problems that are currently in the spotlight add up to food and economic insecurity, so thinking about how to use schools and other facilities in communities to create stability, structure and education is necessary now more than ever.

Representation Matters

Eduardo Cetlin said that the Latino population comprises 16 percent of the population in the United States, but only 6 percent are doctors, 5 percent are engineers, 3 percent are lawyers and 2 percent are high-level executives, therefore, as Latinos, we need representation in accordance to how many of us there are in the United States and it is this lack of representation and understanding that puts the Latino population at risk for other threats.

For Cetlin, one of the challenges is the need to work on scientific literature, it is important to think like a scientist. This does not mean memorizing therapeutic guidelines, but rather seeking answers for the community who receives care while recognizing its unique characteristics to communicate properly.

Schools as Safe Environments

Randi Weingarten from the American Federation of Teachers mentioned in this plenary session that the urgent need for better platforms and ways to improve distance education is also in the spotlight. She also confirmed that in 2020 we have learned that if we have community schools, for example, those in New York where there is an intersection between mental health and health clinics in the facilities and other types of services, everything can be offered comprehensively. By working to make school a safe place, services can be offered, and trust can be gained to address many of these problems in our Latino communities.

Structural Racism

It is important to identify and work to eliminate structural racism. It has been established that online platforms work, but it is important to address how we create a future that also introduces a hybrid system with platforms and social contact, which helps the population but is designed based on the user.

An example is mentioned by David E. Hayes who says that the Latino population can help in the recovery from the crisis caused by COVID-19, but the nature of our jobs exposes us more to the virus. Despite the fact that, contrary to popular belief, 90 percent of Latinos finish high school and 70 percent go to university, this population still does not have the same job opportunities.

We need to provide affordable opportunities for education. In this regard, Dr. Eduardo Sánchez says “we need representation and diverse perspectives at the tables where decisions are made so that new opportunities arise. Working with communities to find policies and solutions they can approach. “In addition to approaching them as experts who want to help, we have to ask the community about their needs and find ways to create a direct relationship with them.” It is important to have representation at leadership levels and to motivate community participation to find and implement solutions.

Changing the Narrative in the United States

Dr. David E. Hayes talks about creating a narrative about the Latino population in the United States. He spoke about what he considers priorities: income, education and healthcare. Latinos are a part of the country and this needs to be reflected in the narrative itself.

Randi Weingarten mentioned that 37 percent of families in the school environment have access to the internet and adequate services. Telehealth and distance education requires an internet connection and adequate services, so the community should be part of these dialogues and collaborate wherever help is needed from a public and private perspective.

Culturally-Appropriate Solutions

Dr. Bautista emphasizes that medical services in Spanish are needed because there are regions where it is believed that this is not necessary since it is the United States, but California, for example, needs these types of services.

Despite the fact that there is still a lot of work to do, some organizations and individuals have not turned away and, despite the pandemic, continue to make efforts to bring attention to and strengthen the Latino community, including aspects that range from health and education to jobs from an inclusive perspective which clears a path and sows that seed that we hope to reap soon.

When speaking of what needs to be done to attend to some conditions that occur more frequently in the Latino population, including them in the communities that require help will surely make a big difference. Talking about us and working on plans that benefit us by allowing us to be at the tables to contribute to decision-making will always be a key factor in making a difference.

WRITTEN BY Eugenia Araiza/ Mariana Gomez , POSTED , UPDATED 08/01/22

Eugenia Araiza has a degree in nutrition specializing in diabetes and she is a diabetes educator. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 25 years ago, she is the creator of Healthy Diabetes. She really enjoys studying and helping others in managing their different types of diabetes. She loves studying, managing type 1 diabetes and nutrition. She especially enjoys writing about the impact diabetes has in her life. She lives surrounded by the love of her family, who are Luis Felipe, who lives with latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) type diabetes and her teenage son, Indigo.

Mariana Gomez is a psychologist and a diabetes educator. In 2008, Mariana started a blog where she shares her life experience with others and started advocating through social media. Mariana worked with the Mexican Diabetes Federation as a communications manager and in other efforts to help build and empower the online diabetes community in Mexico. Today she is the director of international markets at Beyond Type 1. She is the mother of a teenager.