Protecting and Defending Our Community’s Health

By David Thomsen, Policy Analyst, Health Policy Project, NCLR

All Americans should have the opportunity and ability to achieve good health. While we have made significant progress towards achieving this goal, we know that this progress has been uneven for certain communities. April is National Minority Health Month, and as it comes to a close, we want to take the opportunity to shine a light on the gains we have made, while addressing the remaining work necessary to reduce the health inequities facing our country. While we have a long way to go to reach this goal, many communities—including Latinos—have made significant progress under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Between 2013, when key provisions of the ACA came into effect, and 2015:

  • More than four million Latino adults and 600,000 children gained coverage.
  • The overall Latino uninsured rate declined from one in four in 2013 to one in six in 2015.
  • The uninsured rate for Latino children experienced the largest two-year decline on record (11.5% to 7.5%).

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Prevention Is Power: Using the Affordable Care Act to Tackle Minority Health Disparities

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(Cross-posted from the Families USA blog.)

By Sinsi Hernández-Cancio, Director of Health Equity, Families USA
Priscilla Huang, Policy Director, Asian & Pacific Islander Health Forum
Noel Manyindo, Senior Director, Community Health, National Urban League
Steven López, Senior Health Policy Analyst, NCLR

In honor of National Minority Health Month, Families USA, the Asian and Pacific Islander Health Forum, the National Council of La Raza, and the National Urban League have joined forces to promote the power of prevention to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities.

workersApril is National Minority Health Month, and this year’s theme is “Prevention Is Power.” With the first open enrollment period behind us, it’s a good time to discuss how the Affordable Care Act provides not just better health coverage options, but also the tools to help us reduce the health disparities among racial and ethnic minority communities.

Minority communities bear a disproportionate disease burden

Communities of color face grave disparities in health and health care that undermine the well-being of families and their financial futures. Compared to non-Hispanic whites, people of color are more likely to get sick with certain conditions, such as diabetesasthma, and certain cancers. And when they do develop these diseases, they tend to be more likely to lead to complications and even premature death. This is especially true for common chronic diseases that are preventable and that can be effectively managed if detected early. For example, this infographic summarizes some of the top disparities that affect African Americans. Preventing chronic diseases not only saves money, it gives people many more healthy, productive years, which creates stronger, more resilient communities.

For instance, early diagnosis and effective management of diabetes—which is preventable in many cases—can mean the difference between having a relatively normal life and experiencing disabling, life-threatening complications, including amputations, blindness, intractable nerve pain, and end-stage kidney disease. African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans are, respectively, 60 percent70 percent, and 210 percent more likely to develop diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.

People of color with diabetes are also more likely to suffer serious complications than are non-Hispanic whites with diabetes. For example, African Americans with diabetes are one-third more likely to be visually impaired, twice as likely to have a lower extremity amputation, more than twice as likely to have end-stage kidney disease, and more than twice as likely to die of the disease.Latinos with diabetes are 60 percent more likely to have end-stage kidney disease and 40 percent more likely to die of the disease. Early detection and effective treatment can usually prevent these complications.

HEALTH child getting ear checked_newsizeAccess to preventive care can help close the health disparities gap

Having access to preventive health care can make a difference with other serious, chronic conditions too. Hepatitis B is responsible for 80 percent of liver cancers, and Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders are disproportionately affected by this disease. One in 12 Asian Americans has Hepatitis B, and they are more than two and a half times as likely to be diagnosed with liver disease than whites, and more than twice as likely to die of the disease.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is another example. HPV causes cervical cancer, which is more prevalent and deadly among Latinas and African Americans. Vaccination, early detection, and treatment can all drastically reduce these figures. Click here for an infographic on the impact of cervical cancer on Latinas.

The Affordable Care Act provides free preventive care to those with health insurance

Preventive services can greatly reduce the impact of high-disparity conditions like diabetes, Hepatitis B, and certain cancers, among others. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, these tools are within reach for more people than ever before.

Now, health insurance plans must cover a list of preventive services at no additional cost, including an annual checkup, immunizations, birth control, mental health screenings, and screenings for hypertension and for cervical, breast, and prostate cancer. For those without insurance, community health centers will provide care regardless of someone’s immigration status, criminal background, or ability to pay. Find one near you here.

Consistent, quality preventive health care offers consumers and their families a better life

Prevention is power: It is the power to live better, to protect your productivity, and to safeguard your well-being (and your family’s). Prevention allows you to choose a path that saves you money, along with blood, sweat, and tears. And it can mean the difference between life and death.

But these very powerful tools work only if each of us makes the commitment to use them. Talk about the power of prevention with your family at the dinner table. Spread the word in your community. Help equip the trusted leaders in your communities of faith so that they can share this good news with those around them.

We all have a role to play in making the power of prevention a reality not only for our own good, but for the good of our families, our communities, and a stronger, healthier nation.

Join us for a Twitter Chat: Prevention is Power

NMHM14_idea10_maiandra_2As part of National Minority Health Month, we’re joining the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies for a Twitter chat on Wednesday, April 23, at 1:00pm ET to engage and educate key stakeholders on strategies that alleviate chronic disease disparities. We’ll be joining five other REACH Minority National Organizations (MNO), including Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL), Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan, and Black Women’s Health Imperative. REACH is a national initiative vital to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health.

The theme of National Minority Health Month is “Prevention is Power: Taking Action for Health Equity”. It emphasizes the critical role of prevention in reducing health disparities. It is a call to action, a charge for all of us to unite towards a common goal of improving the health of our communities. To join, just include #REACHMNO in your tweet and follow:

Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies: @Jointcenter

APPEAL: @APPEALhealth

SOPHE: @SOPHETweets

Black Women’s Health Imperative: @blkwomenshealth

NCLR: @NCLR

Three Things to Know about Cervical Cancer Prevention

Smiling DoctorBack in January, we wrote here about cervical cancer and Pap tests, which look for cancers and pre-cancers in the cervix. This month, it is National Minority Health Month, which is a time to discuss health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities. It’s also a perfect opportunity to remind you how to prevent cervical cancer.

The theme of this year’s Minority Health Month is “Prevention is Power”. Considering Latinas have the second highest rate of getting and dying from cervical cancer out of all racial and ethnic groups, we are back to tell you three things you should know about cervical cancer prevention.

  1. More than half of cervical cancers occur in women who have never received a Pap test of have not been tested in the past five years. Periodic Pap tests play a huge role in preventing cervical cancer. Pap tests can catch pre-cancerous or cancerous cells when treatment is still relatively simple. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women should begin getting Pap tests at 21. While there are general guidelines about how often to get a Pap test, you can talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
  2. If you have health insurance, Pap tests are covered as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Depending on your health insurance plan, you may be able to get a Pap test at no cost to you. Check with your insurance plan to learn about what it is included in your plan.
  3. If you do not have health insurance, you may be eligible for the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) through the CDC. This CDC program provides free or low-cost mammograms or Pap tests to women who have low-income and little or no health insurance. To learn more about eligibility for this program, take a look at the criteria on the NBCCEDP website.

With Obesity Rates in Decline, It’s Time Reduce the Risk for Latinos

By Carla Plaza, Policy Analysis Center, NCLR

NMHM14_idea10_maiandra_2April is National Minority Health Month and that provides a a great opportunity to talk about obesity in our community. Although a recent study demonstrates that the nation is making progress in reducing the rate of obesity among preschool children, Latino children remain at greater risk of being overweight or obese than their Asian, Black, and White peers. Being overweight or obese as a child can lead to serious chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, cancer, and heart disease. NCLR remains committed to better understanding the various factors that contribute to poor health outcomes within the Hispanic community. Considering nearly two out of five Latino children between the ages of 2 and 19 are overweight or obese, we will continue to propose policy and program recommendations that improve the health of Latinos, especially children.

Because children living in poverty are at higher risk of being obese, NCLR is currently working on a project that teaches families how food assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, make higher-quality, nutritious food more accessible. Preliminary findings demonstrate that Latinos understand the importance of healthy eating, what constitutes “good nutrition,” and what it means for their children. However, Latinos face numerous barriers in accessing these benefits and continue to face hurdles in obtaining affordable, healthier groceries.

We are also interested in how food and beverage advertising can reduce childhood obesity rates. There is considerable scientific evidence demonstrating that marketing and advertising to children has definitive effects on taste, preferences, and consumer behavior. For example, in 2005, the Institute of Medicine conducted a literature review examining the impact of food and beverage marketing on youth. The ensuing report held that marketing and advertising not only shape children’s direct spending on food and beverages but also indirectly influence their parents’ and family members’ purchasing decisions. Furthermore, it was identified that high-calorie and low-nutrient food and beverage products are predominantly advertised and marketed to youth.

Child  in the gardenGiven that one in five children in the United States is Hispanic and that Hispanic children are the fastest-growing segment of the child population, it is important to understand how the advertising and marketing of products are influencing the health of our children. NCLR applauds the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, which has developed category-specific nutrition criteria for 10 different product types that governs the foods and beverages marketed to children under the age of 12. Eighteen companies participate in this initiative, many of which are NCLR’s corporate partners.

Recently, NCLR’s President and CEO, Janet Murguía, spoke at the Partnership for a Healthier America’s “Building a Healthier Future” Summit. During the summit’s opening session on equity, Murguía shared the disparities that exist for Latinos across the spectrum of life, including health, well-being, and education. She highlighted the importance of partnerships to seek solutions for reducing disparities, as well as working with local, trusted community members to educate the Latino community about healthy behaviors and choices. Ms. Murguía also commended First Lady Michelle Obama’s efforts drawing attention to food marketing and advertising.

We will keep you updated on our work to improve healthy eating, reduce obesity among Latino children, and explore the role of food marketing in influencing behavior.