By Brent Wilkes, LULAC National Executive Director
After more than 80 years of national conventions, the needs of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) have evolved. Two of the most pressing themes addressed at the 82nd Annual National LULAC Convention held in Cincinnati were immigration and health care.
In addition to the former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, who spoke passionately about border issues and immigration, our convention was graced with two of the highest ranking females in the Obama administration. It was refreshing to hear the sentiments of Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, and Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius. Both received standing ovations from LULAC’s attendees, and it’s important to note that LULAC, the largest and oldest Hispanic Organization with 900 councils in the United States and Puerto Rico, is a non-partisan entity.
Our organization recognizes there are serious health challenges facing our community including a dramatic increase in diabetes, obesity, heart ailments and other diseases that are often driven by sedentary lifestyles, obesity, poor nutrition, inadequate level of immunizations, and lack of quality and affordable health care. These problems, if not treated properly, can lead to painful diabetic neuropathy and amputations, renal failure and of course heart attacks and strokes.
Studies suggest that lack of health insurance, language, and citizenship are key barriers that prevent many Hispanics from accessing health services and from receiving quality medical care. Due to many factors, Hispanics have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group in the United States.
Secretary Sebelius acknowledged those challenges which LULAC understands are crucial to the well being of our community and our nation. “By far the biggest step we’ve taken to address health care disparities was the Affordable Care Act,” stressed Sebelius. She emphasized that the reform focuses on “better health, better care and lowering costs through improvement. Too many don’t (currently) get screenings due to lack of access.” To help close the gap, Sebelius announced, HHS for the first time is initiating a promotora program designed to set up framework and training. Promotoras, or community health workers, have long had positive results in border and migrant communities. This is one system that we know works, yet until now, never embraced by our national health care networks.
“We need to start by giving every American a chance to live a healthy life,” continued Sebelius.
Similarly, LULAC is committed to improving health among the U.S. Hispanic population. One initiative discussed at the convention, Latinos Living Healthy, is aimed at reducing childhood obesity by facilitating access to nutrition information, foods that are healthy and affordable and access to safe spaces to engage in physical exercise. We know how to make a difference. It’s just about ensuring that the systems are in place and our community is welcomed and made aware of them.