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“Latinos are among the least healthy people”

By Federico Martínez, Special to La Prensa

Latinos are among the least healthy people in the state, suffering from higher rates of depression, suicide, obesity, severe cases of diabetes, HIV/AIDs, and other health problems. That was the unanimous view of dozens of health specialists who gathered at a Latino health conference hosted by MetroHealth Care in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday, October 9, 2014.

The poor health of Latinos in Ohio reflects national trends, said Dr. Henry NG, who specializes in HIV Initiatives and Prevention. That trend is most alarming when it comes to HIV/AIDs, which is becoming a major epidemic for Latino males. But the Latino community overall in Ohio is being disproportionately infected at a greater rate than Caucasians and African-Americans, he said.

“Here in Ohio, according to Cuyahoga County and Cleveland board of health data for 2014,  we can tell  the prevalence of existing cases of HIV affecting Hispanic individuals and residents in Cuyahoga County is 688 cases per 100,000 people, this is 4.6 times bigger than white individuals,” said Dr. NG, one of the speakers during the health forum.

“In the City of Cleveland itself, when we look at the prevalence of HIV in Hispanic and African-American individuals the case rate of Hispanics was 1,080 out of 100,000, which was even greater than that seen in African Americans.”

The answer is to get people tested earlier before they come down with “full-blown AIDS,” said Dr. NG. The medical community in Cuyahoga in recent years has been taking a more proactive approach with its outreach efforts.

Luz Oyola

Consulate Juan Manuel Solana Morales

Dr. Lisa Ramírez

More than 300 health professionals and Latino community leaders participated in the forum, which was part of a week-long of activities that focused on Latino health. The event is part of Binational Health Week, an initiative started several years ago by the Mexican Consulate office in Detroit.

Consulate Juan Manuel Solana Morales, who attended the health forum, praised MetroHealth Care officials for hosting this week’s event for the first time. Similar events are held throughout Michigan and Ohio, but Mr. Solana said he would like to see more communities participate.

“Many health providers in Ohio and Michigan, all they want to do is to speak Spanish, but that’s not enough,” said Mr. Solana.

Dr. María Herrán, one of the organizers of the event, said MetroHealth is one of the nation’s leaders in addressing the needs and providing services for a diverse community.

“MetroHealth has been in existence for 177 years and has created many wonderful programs for minorities, especially for the Latino community,” said Dr. Herrán, a pediatrician for the healthcare facility, where she specializes in Family and Children Treatment.

The health care system works with many community organizations to provide more services to the community, said Luz Oyola, manager of the Amigas Program, which is offered through the MetroHealth Cancer Care Center. The program includes a traveling vehicle that visits underserved communities and provides free clinical breast exams and mammograms, and health screenings for blood pressure, HIV, PAP exams, and cholesterol and vision, she said.

Programs offered by MetroHealth, including its’ own facility is staffed by bilingual staff of doctors, nurses, and social workers, which is a vitally important component of treatment, said Mari Galindo-Dasilva, coordinator of the organization’s Language Access and Communications Services.

Services are tailored to the people being served, and that means cultural awareness among staff is necessary for success, said Mrs. Galindo-Dasilva. All hospital employees must successfully complete cultural awareness training every year, and a more comprehensive program is currently being worked on.

“It goes beyond language; it’s cultural,” said Mrs. Galindo-Dasilva. “It’s being sensitive to the needs of people.”

The daylong event featured several speakers, including Drs. Juan-Pablo del Rincón and Jorge Calles Escandon, who both practice in the field of Endocrinology. Dr. Samuel Rosenberg, whose field is neurosciences and back pain and Dr. Douglas Van Aucken, who specializes in HIV medical treatment were also among the speakers.

According to 2012 national statistics 6.4 million people are affected by diabetes, said Dr. Escandon. Type 2 diabetes is the most deadly because it is the final stage of the illness, which includes dialysis treatments, blindness and amputations.

“More than 60 percent of Mexican-Americans in Ohio who have Type 2 have already had at least one amputation, are on dialysis treatment and are blind by the age of 25,” he said. National statistics foo Mexican-Americans are similar he added.

A panel of representatives from various programs discussed their organization’s resources and answered health-related questions from program attendees.

Panelists included: Edward Muñoz, manager of MetroHealth’s Community Health Advocacy Project, Dr. Lisa Ramírez, who oversees MetroHealth’s Children and Adolescent Psych, School Health Program, María F. Mars, an adult psychiatry specialist for MetroHealth’s Mental Health Services and Nelson Ramírez, interim executive director of Cleveland-based Hispanic Urban Minority Alcoholism Drug Abuse Outreach Program.

Editor’s Note: This story kicks off an ongoing, multi-story series that will focus on various health issues facing the Ohio’s Latino community, including: Suicide and Depression, Obesity and Diabetes, Mental Illness and Drug Abuse. This is part  one.

Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10/14/14 18:06:25 -0700.




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