Disparities in Health Care a Costly Problem for Nation; National Hispanic Medical...

Disparities in Health Care a Costly Problem for Nation; National Hispanic Medical Association Urges Equitable Care, Diagnosis and Treatment



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Washington, DC–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–March 16, 2004–An increasing prevalence of obesity in adolescent Latinos is leading to an alarming rise in Type 2 diabetes, a problem more often seen in middle-age adults than children, according to leading doctors.

What is more worrisome is that Latino children don’t get the same medical attention and quality health care as their white counterparts. That disturbing disparity in health care has prompted the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) to launch an educational campaign to eliminate inequities and make health care accessible to all Americans, regardless of race and ethnicity.

NHMA will launch the campaign at its eighth annual conference – “Hispanic Health Strategies Across the Nation” – March 19-21 at the Capitol Hill Hyatt Regency, 400 New Jersey Ave. NW, Washington, DC. NHMA is a nonprofit organization that represents Hispanic physicians throughout the United States.

“This issue is not about Latinos vs. non-Latinos or citizens vs. immigrants. It is simply equality – that all people are created equal and therefore deserve equal treatment in health care,” said Dr. Elena Rios, president of NHMA. “Accessible health care affects our own economic health as a nation. That’s why we’re calling on the government and the private sector to establish policies and programs to fill this egregious gap in health care.”

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there is a crisis in public health: Minorities receive less care and less high-quality care than whites. Various studies have shown that even among people with the same disease and socioeconomic status, minorities are less likely to be diagnosed properly and are more likely to receive sub-optimal care. Those disparities exist in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, AIDS, heart disease, diabetes, mental disorders, among others. Widespread inequalities also exist in surgical procedures and nursing home services and care.

“Communities of color are paying the price for bias and stereotyping. The nation can no longer afford the luxury of discrimination – because disease and illness do not discriminate,” Rios said

At the conference, NHMA also will announce its forming a philanthropic arm – the National Hispanic Health Foundation (NHHF). NHHF will be affiliated with the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, which educates future leaders of public and private institutions serving the public sector in health, non-profit, and urban planning policy and research.

“As the American Hispanic population continues to grow, the Foundation will be a critical resource to create evidence for Hispanic health policy-making,” said Ellen Schall, dean of NYU Wagner. In addition, NHMA is launching the National Hispanic Health Professionals Leadership Network, a nonprofit group of Latino health professionals, including doctors, dentists, nurses, students and health executives. “The Network will work with NHMA and other organizations to advocate for health care rights. Rios said. “Those include the right to health insurance, the right to prompt diagnosis and treatment.”

Those disparities are contributing to a crisis among society’s most vulnerable members – children. Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in children and adolescents. Each year, more than 13,000 young people are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. In addition, Type 2 diabetes is becoming a sizeable and growing problem among children and adolescents, said Dr. Phyllis Preciado of the UCSF Fresno Latino Center for Medical Education and Research, who will speak at the NHMA conference.

“We’re seeing 10-year-old girls who are 30 percent overweight,” Dr. Preciado said. The number of adolescents age 6 to 19 who are overweight has increased 48 percent from 1988-94, to 1999-2000, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In comparison, the number of Mexican boys and girls who are overweight increased by 95 percent and 45 percent respectively.

Obesity will soon overtake cigarette smoking as the leading cause of preventable deaths, says a new CDC study. Overweight and obese people are much more likely to develop many deadly health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Republican and Democratic leaders are taking notice and realize that the growing cost of health care in our society can be decreased substantially if the nation targets its resources to remedy this nonpartisan problem. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA) have introduced legislation for “Closing the Health Care Gap Act” that would improve access to health care services.

In the landmark 2003 report “Unequal Treatment,” the Institute of Medicine defined disparities in health care as racial or ethnic differences in the quality of health care and called for a road map for a more egalitarian system, considering that minorities are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population.

Conference speakers include Robert K. Ross, MD, president and CEO, The California Endowment; Claude Allen, JD, deputy secretary, HHS; Nathan Stinson Jr., MD, MPH, PhD, deputy assistant secretary, Office of Minority Health, HHS; and Carolyn M. Clancy, MD, director, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, HHS.

“Health care is a human right that has been made prohibitively expensive for many Americans,” Rios said. “We can’t ignore this problem, especially as the baby boomer generation gets older and increases demands for services, including Social Security and Medicare. We can help the system by spending a little now on preventive measures and saving much more later.”

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Disparities in Health Care a Costly Problem for Nation; National Hispanic Medical Association Urges Equitable Care, Diagnosis and Treatment