Michigan St. University to host Latino healthcare summit
By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent
E. Lansing: Michigan State University will play host to a day-long summit on how to improve the health and healthcare issues among Michigan’s Latino population on Fri., March 21, 2014, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the university’s Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center.
The Julian Samora Research Institute (JSRI) is partnering with MI ALMA to host the summit, which will begin with a networking period set aside for participants to meet each other over coffee and a light breakfast.
“We want to create a broad awareness of the issues that Latinos face in the health arena,” said Rubén Martínez, Ph.D., director of the Julian Samora Research Institute. “This is really a summit to bring people together, primarily leaders in healthcare, Latino community leaders, and so forth to learn about the issues and network with each other to establish ties to each other to see if we can move forward in some key areas.”
Some Latino-oriented healthcare issues remain a problem despite decades of knowledge that such barriers exist. Language barriers and cultural competence are two of the biggest.
“There is the cultural issue that works on both sides of the equation: the biggest one is the medical providers oftentimes not having the cultural competence to be able to address the communications issues with the patient effectively. Too many times that’s a barrier,” he said.
Data collection about Latino health issues is another problem, according to Dr. Martínez. Little is known about the overall health of Latinos living in Michigan, because the Behavioral Risk Factor Survey (BRFS) that is used by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and many state/county health departments lacks enough Latino-based data to draw conclusions and map a statewide or even local strategy. The executive director of Ann Arbor-based Casa Latina will do a presentation on Encuesta Buenos Vecinos, a health survey of Latinos conducted in Washtenaw County.
“At the statewide level here, we have an office that has to do a special study to increase the number of Latinos in their survey to be able to get a sense of what the issues are,” said Dr. Martínez. “That’s done every three years. At the local level, we haven’t had enough Latinos included in the survey to be able to say we know what the Lansing-area Latinos have as primary health concerns and issues.”
While healthcare access and affordability remain challenges, there is some movement forward in those arenas for Michigan Latinos.
“We know the status of insurance coverage is going to change among Latinos by virtue of the Affordable Care Act,” said Dr. Martinez. “Michigan is one of the states that went ahead and expanded Medicare coverage.”
Two presentations on the Affordable Care Act are planned, including a question-and-answer session. One other session will provide examples of how to connect Latinos to local resources in the treatment of diabetes. John Hernandez of the Adrian-based Hispanics of Lenawee Alliance will lead that discussion.
“We’re not going to solve them all in one day, but I think by creating awareness, the objective is to get people interested in becoming more engaged in addressing the issues that are raised,” he said. “We’re very excited about this. We’re beginning to, as a group of concerned Latinos in the state, we’re very excited about moving forward with examining key issues that were identified by some key Latino leaders in some earlier summits and we’re tackling them one-by-one. We hope to have some impact in terms of policy, because policy oftentimes is the driver for improvement.”
The summit’s organizers hope to find Latino leaders willing to take some of those policy issues forward to the Michigan state legislature for possible action. The institute has sponsored similar summits in the past on general Latino issues and education. There are plans to hold another one next year on entrepreneurship and business ownership.
The Michigan Latino Statewide Summit on Health is free, because it is being underwritten by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Space is limited, so pre-registration is required by visiting: http://events.outreach.msu.edu/Registrations/Register/68. The registration deadline is Friday, March 14. So far, more than 100 people are planning to attend. A waiting list will be formed if all available slots fill up from pre-registration.