Federal Health Care Workforce Needs More Hispanic Leaders to Spearhead U.S. Health...

Federal Health Care Workforce Needs More Hispanic Leaders to Spearhead U.S. Health Policy for Changing Nation

National Hispanic Medical Association Urges Congress to Develop Strategies to Boost Latinos in U.S. Health as Need Grows


Washington, DC–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–May 16, 2005–Although a recent federal report shows that the number of Hispanics employed by the federal government has grown to 7.3 percent, they still are only about half of the civilian workforce, 13 percent of which is Hispanic. More alarmingly, Hispanics represent only 3.5 percent of the federal health workforce.

The findings were in a report from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management on “Hispanic Employment in the Federal Government.” At the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), only 3.5 percent of federal workers are Hispanic – among the lowest of any federal agency. The Commerce Department also was at 3.5 percent.

The National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) is calling on Congress to bring about a paradigm shift and change in hiring, promoting and retaining Hispanics who work in health care for the federal government. NHMA is urging Congress to redirect resources and invest in leadership development programs at clinics, hospitals and the government to build a country with more Hispanic health leaders who can make decisions and stretch our limited resources to address the healthcare of our growing Hispanic population.

NHMA is holding a “Hispanic Health Leadership Development” briefing for congressional leaders on Tuesday, May 17, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Canon House Office Building, Caucus Room 345, in Washington, DC. The Hispanic Health Congressional Briefing Series is sponsored by the California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation established in 1996 to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians.

“We need to bring in top Hispanic health leaders now,” said Dr. Elena Rios, president of NHMA, which represents Hispanic physicians in the U.S. “What’s most alarming is as the need for more Latinos in health care rises with the population, the number of Hispanics employed in health care by the federal government – and especially in leadership roles –is not keeping pace with the demand.”

Invited to speak is the Honorable Michael O. Leavitt, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Edward L. Martinez, MPA, assistant vice president of the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems; and Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-CA).

“By increasing the number of Latinos in the leadership of the federal health care system, our nation will be better equipped to make the critical decisions that will affect this population as it moves beyond being the nation’s largest minority group,” said Rep. Solis, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ Task Force on Health. “We need the Latino perspective at the federal level.”

Three years ago, NHMA and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus convened a “National Hispanic Health Leadership Summit” in San Antonio, Texas, to examine strategies to improve public and private health programs targeting Hispanics. Among others, the Summit recommended that there be an increase in Hispanic leadership at HHS, as well as state and private organizations, advisory committees and other groups to ensure appropriate program development for Hispanic communities. The report and its findings have been finalized and will be distributed at the May 17 briefing.

“We can’t keep doing things the same old way,” said Dr. Rios. She pointed to the fact that domestic programs are being cut in federal health care. A new Congressional budget calls for a $10 billion reduction in Medicaid, which provides health care for the poor and disabled, over four years beginning in 2007.

“With fewer dollars, we have to be more responsive and pragmatic in our approach to meeting the needs of Hispanics, who in 2050 will represent one out of four Americans,” she said. “With that growth, there is a real urgency to have more Hispanics in federal health leadership roles who can provide the expertise to meet the needs and challenges of this growing population.”

Five years ago, NHMA – which represents 4 percent of Hispanic physicians in the U.S. – launched a fellowship program to develop Hispanic leaders in health. The first three years were funded by HHS and the following two by private industry.

NHMA’s fellowship program – which is a partner with the R. F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, New York University – provides training to enhance leadership capability and knowledge about national and state health policy issues. Fellows learn to develop innovative solutions and policies to improve the health care of Hispanics.

“We have identified over 100 doctors in those five years who are ready to step into high level leadership positions,” said Rios. “When Congress makes its health care budget, the target can’t just be for services. There has to be a federal investment in the development of our future health systems and that includes leaders who understand Hispanics.”

Rios added, “change can happen faster with leaders. With fewer government dollars, we need people from our communities who work with Hispanics who can help make more experienced and responsive decisions. Otherwise the poor are going to be left out.”

Martinez of the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems (NAPH), which represents over 100 hospitals and health systems, will speak at the briefing series on: “Successful Leadership Development Programs.” NAPH has various programs, including one to develop physician leaders who can assist and support safety net hospitals and health systems in implementing change.

“These are the people on the frontlines who can be leaders in our public health who can provide the insight to improve the quality of healthcare for all Americans,” said Rios.

Established in 1994 in Washington, DC, NHMA represents licensed Hispanic physicians in the United States. Its mission is to improve health care for Hispanics and the underserved. NHMA is located on the Web at http://www.nhmamd.org.



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Federal Health Care Workforce Needs More Hispanic Leaders to Spearhead U.S. Health Policy for Changing Nation