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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkHealth & Beauty | March 2007 

Website Focuses on Health Issues Plaguing Hispanics
email this pageprint this pageemail usDon Finley - San Antonio Express-News

The National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) developed the as a portal to share key information that can improve the quality of healthcare delivered to Hispanic populations. The information is directed to health professionals and the public. Visit the website HERE.

Citing higher rates of diabetes, lower rates of health insurance coverage and other problems particular to Hispanics, a national physicians group on Friday unveiled a new Web site where doctors and patients can collect and share information on Hispanic health issues.

"So often because we don't have enough Latino doctors and Latino nurses, we don't have the right information given to our patients," said Dr. Elena Rios, president of the National Hispanic Medical Association, which is meeting in San Antonio this week. "We need to share the strategies that work from those of us who understand about our culture and our families."

"It's second nature to those of us who practice health care here in San Antonio to understand that it is essential to have bilingual staff, bicultural staff. That we respect the culture, not just understand it," added Dr. Sandra Guerra-Cantu, president of the Mexican American/Hispanic Physicians Association of San Antonio. is partly funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The new site's first collection of information focuses on obesity and diabetes, both of which are found disproportionately in Hispanics.

"For instance, there continues to be a growth in the percentage of Mexican American boys who are becoming obese," said Dr. Garth Graham, deputy assistant secretary for minority health with DHHS. "That's why it's important to have efforts such as these in terms of public education, public information."

Dr. Robert Treviño, a San Antonio researcher who developed the Bienestar school-based anti-obesity program, said an examination of Laredo schoolchildren found that 32 percent of 8-year-olds there are obese, compared with 12 percent of 8-year-olds nationwide. Almost 4 percent of those children have dangerously elevated blood sugar levels.

"We have a serious problem," Treviño said. "We have no idea what's coming at us, not only in lives but also in the economic impact that this will have on us."

Dr. Salvador Balcorta, who heads the Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe clinic in El Paso, framed the issue as one of social justice.

"We need to stand up and demand of this country that our Latino-Hispano populations be taken care of," Balcorta said. "It does not matter that we are on our way to being the majority of this country, when we continue to be disregarded and treated as second-class citizens."

Some 10 million Mexican immigrants in the United States share health problems with U.S. Hispanics: diabetes, obesity, depression and domestic violence, said Dr. Enrique Rios, deputy director of migrant health for Mexico's Ministry of Health.

Mexico offers education programs through its consulates in the United States, directing Mexicans on where to seek health care. "In Mexico, if they get sick they can go to any health center," he said. "Here, they don't know where to go — even if they can afford it."

Ideally, the Mexican government would like to develop a binational health plan for its citizens, "which at the moment seems kind of elusive," he added. A few private plans can be purchased for as little as $150 a month. But it's a hard sell.

"They're young, healthy, they don't need much (medical care). And they always have this perception that they are going to get sick when they are older — right now, they don't need to buy it."

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