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NHMA 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 (NHMA).

“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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