Calls On Congress to Provide
Community-Based Research on Hispanics
There are more than 100 medical schools in this country, but very
few of them devote enough attention to research on Hispanics, said
Dr. Elena Rios, president of the National Hispanic Medical Association
“If we are going to look at the future of health care in this
country, we can no longer afford to take a wide, mainstream approach,”
she said. “As the Hispanic population surges, we have to develop
research on Hispanics and include more minorities in patient studies
if we are to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health and
improve our nation’s health.”
Rios spoke at NHMA’s Hispanic Health Congressional Briefing.
The third briefing of NHMA’s series “Racial/Ethnic Disparities
and Community-Based Research” has been held in Washington, sponsored
by NHMA, which represents Hispanic doctors in the U.S., and The California
Endowment, a statewide private health foundation established in 1996
to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved
individuals and communities and to promote fundamental improvements
in the health status of all Californians.
The briefing aimed to underscore the crisis in our communities across
the nation and highlight the potential research strategies that can
eliminate health disparities. Health disparities exist in the diagnosis
and treatment of cancer, AIDS, heart disease, diabetes, mental disorders,
obesity, among others.
“For example, we know that Mexican-American and Puerto Rican
women suffer from cervical cancer two to three times more than non-Hispanic
white women, but we don’t know why those disparities exist.
Research on Hispanics could help answer that,” Rios said.
NHMA is calling on Congress to support bills by Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN),
Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD). The bills,
which seek to eliminate Hispanic health disparities, call for providing
community-based Hispanic health research.
At the briefing, NHMA recommended that partnerships with community
organizations be a requirement for funding of research projects on
the Hispanic community and that Congress enlist NHMA, its foundation
and research networks to develop training and culturally appropriate
research methods, and to incorporate Hispanic populations in clinical
trials. Rios also will call for health literacy so health professionals
can better communicate with patients and understand the differences
among Cuban Americans, Mexican-Americans and other Hispanic populations.
“Phrases that mean something to a person from South America
do not mean the same to a person from Puerto Rico,” she said.
Understanding those communities and their concerns begins with research
that includes Hispanics, who make up the largest minority group in
the United States. NHMA is calling on the government and researchers
to conduct studies that pay more attention to cultural, language,
immigrant and generational statuses.
Most health officials agree that research data should include individuals’
race, ethnicity and primary language spoken. NHMA says that such information
collected and reported at the federal and state levels is critical
to achieving more equitable access to health care and improved care
and to countering racial discrimination.
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