May 6, 2005

The best gift for mom

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

Irene will do something different this Mother’s Day. Instead of going out for dinner at an expensive restaurant o getting an expensive perfume, she asked her husband and children to give her a mamogram.

“At first they were surprised”, said the 55-year-old homemaker, “because they got scared and thought I was sick. But then I explained to them that it was just a study to know if I was or not sick. It was then that all of them got together and reunited the money not only for the mamogram, but also for the pap smear and some blood and urine exams.”

Just like Irene, an excellent idea for a gift this Mother’s Day, is a visit to the doctor.

And like the saying goes, health is the best gift.

Unfortunately, our Latina women and mothers are still facing serious barriers when it comes to access to health care. This causes a larger incidence of disease and poorer health results, especially in the area of reproductive health.

Latinas represent 18 million or 51% of the total Hispanic population, and the number of Latinas is expected to increase considerably.

It is estimated that in 2050, one of every four women in the U.S. will be Latina.

But due to poverty, lack of health insurance, limited access to health care, language barriers, discrimination, and lack of information about risky behaviors contribute to poorer health among Latinas.

The lack of health insurance is without a doubt the main reason why Latinas have difficulties to access health care services.

Latinas not only have the highest rate of lack of health insurance among women (42%) but this number continues growing and it shows no sign of decreasing.

Without the benefits of health insurance, many Latinas postpone or never receive the necessary health services.

Only 38% of Latinas, 40 years or older, receive a regular mamogram that can detect cancer before it presents clinical symptoms.

According to a report from the Instituto de Salud Reproductiva de las Latinas, one of every three Latinas said they hadn’t have a pap smear during the last three years, compared to one fourth of all women in the U.S.

For Luz Alvarez-Martinez, director of the National Organization for Latina Health, based in Oakland, California, Latina mothers almost always worry about the health of others, such as her husband and her children, before her own health.

“Latinas’ own health takes a last place,” Alvarez-Martinez said. “But we have to remember that women are the pillar of the family, and if they [women] get sick, it affects the whole family. If the women gets sick, doesn’t it affect her children as well?

“For that reason,” she said, “it’s important to prevent and to go to the doctor regularly.”

Programs available in SD

In San Diego County there are several community clinics, such as the Chula Vista Family Clinic and the Escondido Health Community Clinic, that offer free or low-cost health services to low-income patients.

The San Ysidro Health Center’s Poder Program, for example, offers free services and exams for the detection of breast cancer for those women who qualify.

“We’re focussing on groups of women who have never received this type of orientation,” said Ilana Goldberg, Poder Program director.

Clínica para la Mujer de San Diego also offers low-cost services for the early detection of breast cancer.

Janet Adamian, clinic director, said that they have mamograms available for low-income women.

“There’s no reason for a woman to develop breast cancer, because thanks to these exams it can be prevented,” she said.

Goldberg said the same thing about cervicel cancer, which canbe detected early with a pap smear.

Poder Program offers free workshops and exams in National City, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, and San Ysidro.

So money or not having health insurance shouldn’t be an excuse for not receiving an exam.

On this Mother’s Day, moms, take time for yourselves and go to a health care program.

“If we want to take care of our families, we have to take care of ourselves first,” Alvarez-Martinez said.

For more information:
Poder Program
San Ysidro Health Center

(619) 205-6340

Clínica de la Mujer
San Diego Family Health Centers
(619) 515-2300

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