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New Jersey Latino Health Institute underway

Medical professionals, activists, officials launch Latino Health Institute

 The launch of a New Jersey Latino Health Institute is being hailed as the spear-point organization that will have as its mission the elimination of health disparities among the state’s 1.5 million Latinos.
Organizers maintain that while Latinos contribute over $45 billion to New Jersey’s economy, they face barriers to access to quality healthcare and as a result are more likely to suffer higher rates of chronic disease and morbidity than non-minorities.
They believe there is a need to develop a medical professional workforce to service Latinos, a need for improved statewide data collection on Latino health issues and a need to provide access to healthcare for recent immigrants.
The premise behind the Latino Health Institute’s creation is that the best way to develop strategies to eliminate health disparities is to engage medical professionals, academics, policymakers and healthcare advocates in a coordinated effort to develop Latino health disparities research, health policy and effective public health interventions.
“The World Health Organization defines disparities as ‘differences in health which are not only unnecessary and avoidable but, in addition, are considered unfair and unjust,” Martin Perez, president of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey said. This “marks an important first step in New Jersey in eliminating the unfair and unjust circumstances surrounding health care that are imposed on our community.”
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Dr. Elena V. Rios, president of the National Hispanic Medical Association have joined in calling for a coordinated effort among all levels of government, the private sector, academia and community based organizations to eliminate health disparities.
The implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act (Obama’s health care program) and its impact on New Jersey’s Latino community is another main issue for the Latino Health Institute.
“It is critical that we ensure that all Latinos have access to quality, affordable and accessible healthcare,” Menendez said. “Under the healthcare reform legislation that passed into law, 9 million Hispanics will have health coverage that would not have had coverage by the year 2014.
“We meet these challenges of healthcare disparities in our country and our community through a comprehensive, multilevel strategy,” the senator added.
Rios said, “We (Latinos) have the highest rates of uninsured in this country.” She elaborated on the need to develop a workforce to service the growing Latino community. We can’t possibly have 30 million new Americans in the health insurance market without having the workforce to service them.”
The organizers also point towards a greater need for public health research that bridges the gap between academia and grass roots community leaders in developing effective public health interventions. They also intend to address what they see as a need to create funding opportunities that facilitate Latino entry into the health professions which they argue are in dire need of health literacy, cultural competence and language skills.

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