Dr. Raul Perea-Henze Comments on How Obama’s Health Plan will Help Improve...

Dr. Raul Perea-Henze Comments on How Obama’s Health Plan will Help Improve Hispanic Health

The following opinion editorial was submitted by Dr. Raul Perea-Henze, Former Senior Health Care Advisor and White House Fellow


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NEW YORK, Oct. 15 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — In reviewing the health proposals by both presidential candidates, I was impressed with Senator Obama’s plan, which I believe can have a positive impact on health for the Latino community in America. We have the highest rate of uninsured — nearly one-third of all Hispanics are uninsured, accounting for 14.7 million of the overall 45.7 million people in the U.S. who are uninsured. (U.S. Census Bureau, August 2008) For that reason, lack of access to healthcare and perhaps because of cultural and behavioral patterns that encourage us to avoid medical care until it is absolutely necessary, we lag behind in seeking preventive care, which leads to late-stage diagnosis of chronic conditions, more expensive treatments and worse health outcomes.

Ensuring that more people can have health insurance coverage is the single most important policy move that, in my view, will have the greatest impact on the health of Latinos, since it is the best way to increase access to healthcare products and services. A recent report released by the Commonwealth Fund (October 2, 2008) indicates that Obama’s plan would cover 34 million of the nation’s projected 67 million uninsured people in 10 years, compared to McCain’s plan, which would cover only two million people. While Obama is aiming higher to provide coverage to all of the uninsured people in the U.S., even as it stands now, his plan is better and clearly this has to be a priority for our community. Aside from having the highest rate of uninsured, more Latino children are also uninsured — over 3 million. Obama’s plan will require all children to have health coverage, expanding eligibility for the Medicaid and SCHIP programs, thus protecting the future of our communities.

Obama’s focus on prevention and the strengthening of the public health system adds more hope for improving the state of Hispanic health. According to another recent report issued by the Pew Hispanic Center (August 13, 2008), more than one-fourth of Hispanic adults in the U.S. lack a regular health provider. Those that do not have a regular source of care are a diverse group including men, the young, the less educated, the uninsured, high school graduates, those born in the U.S. and even some with health insurance. A large number (41%) of respondents to the Pew survey cited the principal reason for not having a usual provider is that they “are seldom sick.”

If we are interested in improving our overall health, we must begin a concentrated effort to change this behavioral pattern among Latinos. It is in our best interest to seek out preventive, ongoing access to medical services -when insurance is not an issue, at least one barrier disappears — and not to wait to see a doctor only until we feel sick. Yes, broken bones, rapid infections and other emergency conditions will occur and require urgent care, but annual medical check-ups and routine exams for eyes, teeth, cancer and other health threats can help prevent disease and other menaces to your health.

Obama’s health plan calls for many different approaches to prevention, including working with employers and the school systems, investing in training more medical providers, funding for community based interventions and enhancements to our public health facilities and programs. This includes full funding for our Veterans Affairs medical facilities, ensuring that our veterans get the best care possible once they return from service and for the rest of their life. They will have access to comprehensive health and mental health services and Hispanic Veterans should take full advantage. All of these approaches are vitally important to reach Latinos with critical prevention messages and services.

Obama’s emphasis on lowering the cost of health care and improving the quality of services provided also has potential positive impact on Latino health, more specifically his demand for improving access to prevention and proven disease management programs and to reducing health care disparities. Information, education and trust are all factors that contribute to how well we care for our health. There are proven comprehensive models of care in the areas of diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular, obesity and depression — all health conditions that are prevalent among Hispanics — that respond to these important factors and can have positive quality outcomes on the health of Latinos.

For all of these reasons, I believe that Obama’s health plan can improve the health status of Latinos and our nation. We need to change our mindset from one that promotes last minute care to emergency services, to another of continuity in a relationship with our health care system … much in the way we talk to “promotoras de salud” and attend health fairs. Otherwise, Latinos as a group will continue to suffer — even when health insurance is in their hands.

SOURCE Dr. Raul Perea-Henze

Dr. Raul Perea-Henze Comments on How Obama’s Health Plan will Help Improve Hispanic Health