August 9 2002

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Teams With NHMA Physicians, Other Leaders To Convene National Hispanic Health Leadership Summit

SAN ANTONIO, TX – In the first comprehensive look at Hispanic health care in a decade, the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will convene a “National Hispanic Health Leadership Summit” in San Antonio Aug. 16-17.

Richard Carmona, the invited keynote speaker, will be making one of his first public appearances as President Bush’s newly confirmed surgeon general. Carmona will share his vision for his tenure as the nation’s leader in health issues.

A press conference will kick off the summit following the opening plenary session at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 16, at the University of Texas, San Antonio.

“We want to learn from the past, marshal the resources of today and develop a plan for a stronger, healthier America for tomorrow,” said Dr. Elena Rios, president of NHMA. “Today’s leaders in Congress and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are recognizing the critical importance of engaging national and local health experts to develop a strategy for the future. This health summit is about Hispanics leading the way for better health care for all Americans.”

NHMA is teaming for the first time with the Hispanic Caucus, which is the honorary co-chair of the event, and other congressional leaders and HHS to:

 Share the strengths and weaknesses of current health care programs that effect Hispanics.

 Discuss strategies for future health care programs.

 Build consensus on the programs and policies to improve the quality of health care delivery to Hispanics nationally over the next five years.

“Everyday Hispanics encounter critical issues such as insufficient access to health care, including immunizations, and a shortage of Hispanics in health professions. Those are some of the issues that together we can tackle so every American can be a healthier American,” said Rep. Ciro D. Rodriguez (D-TX), Congressional Hispanic Caucus first vice-chair and chair of its health task force.

The summit will culminate with recommendations and strategies to improve public and private health programs targeting Hispanics. A report will be available in the fall on NHMA’s Web site at www.nhmamd.org.

“Health care costs are on the rise at a time when more is being asked of our health care professionals. We’re faced with the heightened challenges of fighting bioterrorism and improving public health in our poor neighborhoods and the U.S.-Mexico border area,” Rios said. “Concurrently, as the economy falters, more and more Americans are losing their health care benefits along with their jobs. We have to address these issues before they fray the precarious fabric of our health care safety net. We can do that by providing incentives for employers to maintain health insurance as a benefit.”

Hispanics have unique needs to develop state, national and private sector programs, Rios said. “NHMA is especially concerned about the need for health services in Hispanic communities,” she said.

Among the problems facing Hispanics is that 40 percent of adult Latinos lack health insurance and have the least access to health care services and disease prevention information. About 33 percent have trouble understanding or communicating with their doctor. The problem is even greater for Hispanics who primarily speak Spanish, 43 percent.

With more than 26 million Americans speaking Spanish, President Bush supports Limited English Proficiency (LEP) services by health care providers. Those services include translators, interpreters, materials and signs in the patient’s language. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has a new project – “Hablamos Juntos” – to study new interventions in LEP services.

Hispanics face the highest rate of health disparities compared with non-Hispanic whites in heart disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, asthma, injuries, accidents and mental health.

The participants will look at how to follow the Office of Minority Health’s Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) standards and develop staff training and health program policies that focus on patients’ culture.

“We want to look at how to increase recruitment and retention and how to work with the federal government and pharmaceutical companies to increase research on Hispanic patients,” Rios said.

Established in 1994 in Washington, DC, the National Hispanic Medical Association represents licensed Hispanic physicians in the United States. The mission of the NHMA is to improve health care for Hispanics and the underserved. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and members of the U.S. House of Representatives are dedicated to advancing issues affecting Hispanic Americans.

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