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The Latin Shift Series: How Latinos Are Changing Health Care Pt. 1

The Potential Hispanic-American Public Health Crisis

By: Oscar L. Orias

The United States government has released the new census report and Latinos have surpassed all predictions by reaching 50 million people. Latinos now make up more than 16% of the population and there are no signs of slowing down. In Houston, Latinos make up more than 40% of the population and contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to our economy Their number in Houston the rest of the country keep growing at an exponential rate (43% increase since 2000). With this rapid shift in population come shifts in customs, culture, lifestyle, and health to this nation. For Latinos health and wellness is becoming a concerning and dangerous issue. 1 in 2 Latino children will develop type-2 Diabetes and 1 in 4 Latinos are obese. The numbers are similar to other minorities groups, especially if they are below the poverty line. This is due to factors such as low socio-economical status, income levels, and the change in diet and lifestyle from Latin America. Since Latinos children are the fastest segment group in the U.S., their well-being is crucial to health of the country. Unfortunately, the government has done little in the way recognizing and dealing with the problem from a public health aspect. This is still seen by many as a Latino problem not an American problem. With such exponential growth, the nation can’t afford to ignore Hispanic concerns. This series raises awareness of the different health aspects and problems that Latinos face. Latinos are changes how health care is viewed, implemented, consumed, financed, and delivered.

Diabetes and Obesity: The Latino Killers?

Latinos came to this country to achieve and share the American dream with their family. That American Dream has come at a high price to the fitness and well-being of the Latino family, especially children. More than 1 in 2 Latino children will develop diabetes in their lifetime and Mexican-Americans are more lightly to become obese. These statistics become bleaker when you look at the fact that Hispanics are 1.6 times more likely to die from diabetes than their White counter parts. For Mexican-Americans, they have 56% higher chance of dying from diabetes than Whites.

Diabetes and obesity are catalyst to health problems down the road. They can cause other concerns such as heart failure, cancer, renal disease and failure, pregnancy complications, and premature death. It can even damage and disrupt bone development in teens. Obesity has been linked to psychological and social problems in children, especially young adults. It can even lead to diabetes down the road.

The direct economic toll to treat these arrays of diseases reaches in the tens of billions. In 2007 the economic cost of treating diabetes was $127 billion. According to the American Diabetes Association this was a $42 billion dollar increase in spending from 2002. For obesity the toll is as high as $147 billion annually (2006 figures). The indirect economic toll such as lost productivity and quality of life are also very high. For diabetes the indirect cost is over $58 billion with a loss in national productivity of $26 billion.

The Burden of Diabetes and Obesity to the Households

It is estimated that diabetes cost on average $11, 744 per person per year. For obesity, patients spent an average of $1,429 more on health care than did people within the normal weight range. Even with adequate insurance coverage and government assistance many Latino families, especially ones below the poverty line have a difficult time paying for treatments. Families sacrifice basic and essential needs like heating and food in order to pay for treatment and prescription medication. Many of these impoverished patients end up accumulating huge credit card debts in order to pay for these large expenses. Paying these credit card debts and their high interest rates can cause long-term and even generational economic problems. These families focus most of their resources in combating diseases and debt at the expense of important long-term financial investments like college education (Latinos rank near the bottom in college attendance). This isn’t strictly a Latino issue, these diseases effect all races and ethnicities from the lower socio-economic standings.

Diabetes and obesity create loses in financial production for families and the community. These loses in productivity are devastating for families living on the fiscal edge. Treating diabetes and obesity related disease drains a family’s time, energy, and emotions. That same time and energy could utilized in becoming more financially and socially productive. These poor families end up making hard decisions and creating bad habit just to pay for treatment. Many of them end up consuming inferior foods and goods that are low in nutrients and high in fats, calories, and sugar. These foods are usually inexpensive juices and soft drinks with high amount of fructose corn syrup and fast food burgers laden with saturated fat and calories. For these families eating from the dollar menu at McDonald’s cheaper than buying leafy greens and fruits. In many Latino neighborhoods junk and fast food is more accessible than a grocery store. This ends up being a vicious cycle of disease that never gets properly treated and managed.

Part 2: Inadequate Care for Latinos

These grave health care issues are compounded by the inadequate access to care for Hispanics. This lack of care stems from several factors such as socio-economical standing, government policy, underinsurance, lack of income to treat these diseases, and how Latinos culturally view medicine and certain treatments. The next blog we will explore and go in-depth into these factors, especially into the socio-economic conditions that affect all races and ethnicities.

Stay tuned and please comment on my blog! All comments are welcomed and appreciated!

Citation:
Wolfe , Lahle A. “1 in 2 Hispanic Children May Develop Diabetes.” World Diabetes Day USA. 1 Oct. 2009. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. .

Pallarito, Karen. “How the Costs of Type 2 Diabetes Add Up – Type 2 Diabetes – Health.com.” Health.com: Health News, Wellness, and Medical Information. 6 May 2008. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. .

Holden, By Diana. “Fact Check: The Cost of Obesity – CNN.com.” CNN.com – Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. 9 Feb. 2009. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. .

“Direct & Indirect Costs of Diabetes in the United States – American Diabetes Association.” American Diabetes Association Home Page. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. .

Henneberg, Molly. “Hispanic Boom Brings Big Changes for Nation and Its Politics – FoxNews.com.” FoxNews.com – Breaking News | Latest News | Current News. 24 Mar. 2010. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. .

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Somos Houston

By: Oscar L. Orias

Latino Heritage/History month ended this year with much fanfare and Hispanics being under the microscope politically. Arizona’s proposed new laws raised many question about Latinos integration within American society and how they are compared with other immigrants of the past. In Houston, their presence is felt in all parts of the city. They are our cities political leaders, entrepreneurs, teachers, doctors, and business leaders. Latinos make up almost 45 million people in this country and the fastest growing minority group. Even with such large numbers and integration into American life and business many Latinos still face racial discrimination and other barriers in this country. Even in Houston where Latinos make a large percentage of the population they still fight for their place in proverbial political and economic table.

How Latinos Changed the Face of Houston
My father arrived to Houston in the early 80s; he described it as a mostly Anglo town with a strong Texas flavor. Houston by many was considered a backwater city with little to offer and no real diversity. Things have a lot changed over the last 30 years in this city due in part to Latin immigrants coming to this city. Much of those changes have a very visible Hispanic imprints on them.

The Spanish language one of those visible imprints. It has become the second primary languages spoken in the city of Houston and in some section it is the predominant language. In many businesses, especially the service sector, Spanish has become a must in order to serve customers. Talking to people in their language isn’t enough anymore, businesses are having website information, commercials, and marketing materials in Spanish. The language has also served as a lightning rod of discrimination against Latinos and in some ways an economy handicap. Studies have shown that Bilingual Spanish speakers earn much more than their one language counter parts.

Another visible imprint into Houston culture is the popularity of Latin American festivals and holidays. Celebrations like Fiestas Patrias, Cinco De Mayo, Cuban/Puerto Rican Festival, and Chicano Day have become an integral part of the city’s traditions. These celebrations bring all Houstonians together to relax, learn, and enjoy the regions culture and food. These festivals and celebrations also introduce new cultural ideas that will later be blended into the general culture.

Latin owned and styled companies have made a deep impact in Houston’s landscape. These firms aren’t just confined into just one section or one part of the city, they are found in different types of neighborhoods and Suburbs. More than 1/5 of all businesses in the city are owned by Latinos, much higher than other ethnic groups in the city. 19 of the largest 500 Hispanic run businesses in the nation are based in Houston.

Open for Business
Hispanics open businesses to cater to the underserved Latino market and to tap into their large purchasing power. Companies such as restaurant, food markets, grocery stores, financial firms, and clothing boutiques cater to the market well. Increasingly many of those companies have expanded their market to the rest of the general public (i.e. Fiesta Supermarket and Ninfas Restaurant). The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce estimates there are 75,000 Hispanic-Owned businesses in the city. Those firms aren’t just found in the service industry, they are visible almost every sector of the local economy.

Why does Houston have such a large amount of Latino-own businesses? Much of it has to do with the culture of the town and Hispanics. The laid back attitude and the hungry for the city to expand have allowed immigrants from all walks of life to settle here. Texas also has a very independent culture and spirit that actually encourages people to take risks and become their own boss. Entrepreneurs are celebrated for being risk-takers and pioneers. This is reflected in the state’s business friendly tax-codes and public policies. The historically inexpensive housing market also allows for new comers especially with no real monetary value to live in the city on a limited budget. Inexpensive housing helps free up capital for a start-up business down the road.

Latinos come to this city in search of new opportunities, financial and political independence, and a stable place to raise a family. Citizens face a lot of barriers when opening industries in Latin America. These barriers range from the large amounts of administrative red tape to corruption in obtaining business licenses. Inhabitants see their own governments as a liability not an asset to start-up businesses accord to a Gallup Poll done this year. According to the poll 2/3 of residents say that government doesn’t make getting permits and paperwork easy to obtain. The next reason cited is the lack of businesses being fearful of making profit without government intrusion. This highlights the tension and distrust between private business and nationals governments.

Nuestro Futuro (Our Future)
The outlook of the Latino in this metropolis and country depends on them flexing their political and economic muscle. Until now they have been an important swing vote but not really an influential voting block. They are an important market but not a market shaker or changer. This new generation of American-born Latinos still faces obstacles like discrimination, culture clashes, political legitimacy, and poor education. The dropout rate for Hispanics in High School still stands a whopping 18.3% according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This number is alarming because education today is the key for social mobility and economic success. This statistics and other factors must change if this country is to succeed in the long-term. The future of the Latino and the future of this country are indissoluble.

Sources:
http://www.gallup.com/poll/143966/latin-americans-barriers-entrepreneurship.aspx
http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=16
http://iserp.columbia.edu/research-initiatives/working-paper-series/no-entiendo-effects-bilingualism-hispanic-earnings
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houston
http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/stories/2008/06/02/daily58.html
http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/hispanic/hispanic_pop_presentation.html

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