National Alliance for Hispanic Health
1501 Sixteenth Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
(202) 387-5000
Email:
[email protected]
www.hispanichealth.org

The National Alliance for Hispanic Health was founded in 1973 by a group of mental health professionals to improve the treatment of Hispanics by the mental health system. Within a few short years, the group had expanded its mission to addressing the health care needs of Hispanic families. Thirty-one years later its mission is multifaceted and includes helping consumers and providers, as well as promoting the appropriate use of technology, improving the science base for accurate decision making, and promoting philanthropy.

Since the Alliance was founded, the percentage of Hispanics in the United States has grown, and the needs of the community have changed. But the Alliance has maintained the same principles since the beginning: seeking out community-based solutions, representing all Hispanic groups, and refusing funding from alcohol and tobacco companies.

The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by the year 2020, Hispanics will account for 18% of our total population (according to the Alliance, by 2050, that number is expected to reach 25%.) Although Hispanics have longer life expectancies than Americans of other ethnic and racial backgrounds, they are more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses. The exact causes for these discrepancies are unknown, but the Alliance hopes to keep such issues a major area of concern and research for the medical and scientific communities.

What does this mean for allied health care providers? According to Jane L. Delgado, president and CEO of the Alliance, those who provide health care to Hispanic people must understand and appreciate the culture. She adds that merely understanding the language or being tolerant of non-English speakers is not enough. In an interview with DAHC, Delgado talks about the AllianceÕs missions and challenges and what health care workers can do to help.

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One of the Alliance’s missions is to raise ‘cultural proficiency’ among providers. What does the term mean and why is it significant in the medical treatment of Hispanics?

In the 1990s, cultural competency was the term used to encompass the ability to value another language or culture. The lessons learned were that the least competent providers believed themselves to be competent and that competency was inadequate for the often-intimate interaction that underlies the therapeutic encounter. What was needed was at the more advanced level of cultural proficiency in which a different language and culture is held in high esteem. This concept is an essential part of the clinical interaction. The interaction between provider and patient requires that the provider recognize and incorporate the values of the patient into their clinical work.

What can providers do to improve their treatment of Hispanic patients? What are common problems that could be avoided?

To improve treatment of Hispanics, providers must rely on what Pete Duarte, former CEO of Thomason Hospital in El Paso, Texas, defined as the ‘R&D’of good clinical care, (i.e., Respect and Dignity.) As a first step, providers should understand that the mentality of compliance is not helpful. Instead, all clinical encounters need to occur in a positive environment where the major theme is ‘working together.’ While this is true for all patients, it is more so the case with Hispanic patients because of the decades of disconnect with the health provider community.

At a fundamental level, the issue of language spoken must be addressed. While it is unlikely that every provider can communicate in the same language as every patient, there is a need to have mechanisms in place to make possible communication when the language of the patient is not English. At a minimal level, well meaning providers need to understand that interpreting is a skill that must be learned; merely being able to speak a language does not make a person skilled. There are some simple cautions to keep in mind, e.g., use of pantomime is open to misinterpretation and that speaking slowly and loudly will not make English understood by a non-English speaker.

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Hispanics live longer than other ethnic groups in the United States, yet suffer a higher incidence rate of diabetes, depression and arthritis. What is the Alliance doing to improve the quality of life for Hispanic people with chronic illnesses?

We work through our four centers to improve the quality of life for Hispanics:
1. Center for Consumers operates national information help lines (for general information (866) SUFAMILIA and for prenatal care (800) 504-7081); develops materials on a variety of health topics; works with youth to involve them in health; reaches out to consumers to make sure they have the latest information to make healthier decisions about their lives; and, through the action forum on our Web site, directs communication by individuals with their elected officials.

2. Center for Providers improves the cultural proficiency of providers through training and technical assistance, works with community-based organizations, and forms local and national coalitions to address health issues.

3. Center for Technology works to ensure that Hispanics benefit from the appropriate use of technology. As founding board members of the Patient Safety Institute, we strive to make sure that the most accurate data are available at the point of care.

4. Center for Science and Policy works with the National Institutes of Health and the greater research community to understand how basic science, risk factors, treatment and outcome apply to Hispanics; to increase the number of Hispanics in the sciences; and to fill the gap between the bench and the bedside. All of our knowledge from consumers, providers, technology and science drive what we do in the policy area.

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What is the most significant project the Alliance is involved in now?

All of our projects are significant to the 25 dedicated national staff who have made their life work improving the health of Hispanics. We understand that each project helps us to fulfill our mission regardless of whether it is releasing our report on genes and Hispanics, answering the concerns of a consumer who does not know where there is a clinic close to their home, or launching a national campaign to make sure that older Hispanics obtain the new prescription drug discount card.

What type of research is the Alliance advocating to be conducted in the upcoming years?

We want good research that is inclusive of Hispanics in a way that insures a healthy lifespan for all. We need research that creates models of health, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up that include and explain the Hispanic experience.

How can allied health professionals and students help the organization’s missions?

You can do several things:

Keep us informed of emerging issues and opportunities to improve health.

Become a member of the Alliance.

Be an active member of your respective professional
organization.

Make your voice heard by communicating with elected officials. Our Web page (hispanichealth.org) has a new feature ÒAction ForumÓ that makes it easy for you to track legislation of interest to you and send an email to your elected representatives.

In less than 50 years Hispanics are expected to make up one fourth of the population in this country. How far has the medical community come in treating this growing patient population at the same level as the population at large, and how far does it have to go to meet the resulting challenges?

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Q&A with Arilma St. Clair, Hispanic Nurse & Leader

All of our projects are significant to the 25 dedicated national staff who have made their life work improving the health of Hispanics. We understand that each project helps us to fulfill our mission regardless of whether it is releasing our report on genes and Hispanics, answering the concerns of a consumer who does not know where there is a clinic close to their home, or launching a national campaign to make sure that older Hispanics obtain the new prescription drug discount card.

The answers are simple: 1. Not far enough, 2. How far we have to go varies by where we are. The important point is that by working together we will all get there and enjoy healthier lives.
 

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