Friday, December 15, 2006

New report says Connecticut Latinos are facing a health crisis

Dave Collins:

Connecticut's Latinos are facing a health crisis, suffering higher rates of major illnesses such as cancer and diabetes while being less likely to have health insurance than other ethnic groups, according to a new report by a Hispanic advocacy group.

The nonprofit Hispanic Health Council released the report Tuesday, calling it the first comprehensive look at Latino health in Connecticut.

"The Latino population in the state of Connecticut is a large group of people that are suffering disproportionately diseases that are preventable and that are treatable," said Jeannette DeJesus, president and chief executive officer of the Hartford-based council.

"With information and a profile of the health status of this group, we can begin to have discussion and conversation and we can begin to address these issues," she said.

DeJesus and other advocates for Hispanics are hoping to use the new report to prompt state lawmakers and health care providers to take action.

The report recommends establishing a universal health care system in Connecticut, increasing the number of interpreters at health care facilities, improving health care literacy among Latinos and creating more opportunities for Latinos to earn better wages.

The 96-page report describes a number of health issues affecting Latinos, who make up 9 percent of the state's population and are the largest minority group in Connecticut.

The document says Latinos:

-- Experience higher rates of certain cancers compared with non-Latino whites, including cervical, esophageal, gall bladder and stomach cancers.

-- Account for 25 percent of all AIDS cases in Connecticut.

-- Have a 60 percent higher mortality rate for diabetes and 40 percent higher mortality rate for diabetes-related illnesses than non-Latino whites in Connecticut. Latinos are also less likely to see doctors for diabetes.

-- Have higher pediatric asthma rates than non-Latino whites and blacks and are less likely to receive inhaled steroids and other asthma treatments than non-Latino whites.

-- Have higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases than non-Latino whites.

-- Have a high rate of obesity, an estimated 57 percent.

-- Have higher infant mortality rates than the general population.

The report also says that while Latinos are 9 percent of the state population, they represent 40 percent of Connecticut's more than 400,000 residents without health insurance. Researchers said Latinos are less likely to work for employers that offer health insurance programs.

When they go to doctors, 44 percent of Latino adults report that they usually, or at least sometimes, have problems because of language issues. Only about half of Latino patients who need interpreter services receive them, the report says.

Studies also show that Latinos have more oral health problems than non-Latino whites, who are twice as likely to have received a dental exam in the last year.

Connecticut Hispanics Have Higher Rates of Illnesses Than Other Ethnic Groups, Report Finds

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