OCCHA seeks to
include Latinos in a national health survey, addressing health
By Ingrid M. Rivera, Special to La Prensa
ELYRIA, August 29, 2008:
Members of the Ohio Latino Health Coalition [Organización
Civica y Cultural Hispana Americana, Inc., or OCCHA; see
its Web site at:
www.youngstownoccha.org] seek to include the Latino voice
within a national survey on health-care issues and are
addressing the Latino health disparities.
OCCHA, an Ohio non-profit corporation, have taken the
discussions to 14 cities across the state. The conversations, to
be presented at the national level next year, arrived in Elyria
Health professionals of several clinics and representatives of
Latino, health agencies addressed a crowd of about 60 people on
the Latino health disparities, within Lorain County
Community College’s Spitzer Conference Center.
Pictured above is keynote speaker Erendira
López-García, psychologist at Wright State
University, presenting health statistics broken down into
various ethnic groups, at the Ohio Latino Health Coalition on August
29, 2008, at LCCC.
Photos by Ingrid Rivera.
They addressed, through both speeches and group-discussion
formats, the diseases prevalent within the Latino community, the
barriers preventing Latinos from seeking regular, medical
attention and the possible solutions.
“There is a big health disparity among Hispanics growing at an
alarming rate and we want to close that gap,” said Mary Isa
Garayua of Youngstown, Ohio and co-founder of OCCHA. “We
want to know what is causing that gap. Is it because there is
not enough education, outreach? Why do we Latinos wait until we
are very sick to go [to the hospital]?” Garayua said.
Garayua, a 13-year colon cancer survivor, said she ignored the
signs of cancer and did not seek medical attention immediately.
“Health is not a priority among us (Latinos) and it should be,”
All information gathered at the August 29th Friday’s
event, as well as the other Ohio cities, will be the Latinos
contribution to a national survey to be presented in February of
2009, said Cheryl Boyce, executive director of the Ohio
Commission on Minority Health. The National Partnership for
Action, presenting the national survey, seeks to end all health
The discussions “will give us a better handle on the health
needs of the Latino community. This is a statewide strategic
plan that will be presented nationally. It’s (to insure) Latinos
are not left out,” Boyce said. The national survey on health
needs will include various racial and ethnic groups, Boyce
Including that Latino voice in surveys regarding health is
crucial because of the Latino health inequalities, speakers at
the LCCC event said. They said that within the Latino community,
certain diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and
asthma are on the rise yet Latinos are not receiving regular
medical attention, unlike other ethnic groups.
The goals of the series of “Statewide Conversation on Health
Issues” was “to have one voice, to identify what are the health
issues affecting the Hispanic community and to take (that
information) back to the agencies,” said Victor L. Leandry,
Executive Director of El Centro de Servicios Sociales, Inc.,
Keynote speaker Erendira López-García, psychologist at
Wright State University, said depression, anxiety, chemical or
drug abuse and dependency, suicide, and domestic violence are
the mental health issues most prevalent within the Latino
community. López-García, of Mexican descent, said only one in 20
Latinos diagnosed with a mental health disorder see the mental
health specialist regularly.
Alejandro and the OCCHA 2004 Survey
OCCHA co-founder Lydia Alejandro said that too often
Latinos are left out of statewide and national surveys
surrounding health issues. The coalition members created a
statewide survey back in 2004 and are collecting information
from the Latino community for a new national health survey with
the same primary goal: to include the Latino voice.
Findings of their 2004 health issues survey found an increasing
number of Latinos have multiple serious and chronic diseases
such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The report also found
there is a low percentage of Latinos who exercise regularly and
eat nutritious foods.
Alejandro, of Mexican descent and who resides in Fremont, said
their survey found the barriers to regular health care to be
lack of Spanish-speaking doctors and Spanish interpreters,
health care insurance plans, and transportation. Culturally
insensitive clinics may also keep Latino patients away,
Members of El Dorado Senior Center.
At the event, the crowd was divided into four groups, to discuss
how to overcome the barriers for seeking health care on a
regular basis. The groups concluded: having more diverse medical
boards, training doctors to be more culturally sensitive,
providing more Spanish-speaking doctors or Spanish interpreters,
assisting in the cost of health care and transportation,
educating young, Latinos about health care professions, and even
making a hospital waiting room more culturally welcoming (by
including Spanish publications, for example) would help Latinos
seek regular medical attention.
Present at the discussions were members of El Dorado Senior
Center. One member, Elpidio Amaro, 74, of Lorain and
of Puerto Rican descent, said he attended the event to become
more informed about the health issues affecting Latinos. Another
El Dorado member, Awilda Bracero, 67, of Lorain and of
Puerto Rican descent, said “There is a need for more doctors
that speak Spanish.”
According to the Institute of Medicine of the National
Academies’ 2002 Unequal Treatment Report, minorities are
less likely than whites to receive health services. The report
found stereotyping, biases and uncertainty, or lack of cultural
knowledge, can lead to unequal treatment. [Visit:
Also, according to a 2001 Kaiser Permanente survey,
Latinos tend to have lower mortality rates but higher morbidity
rates than the rest of the U.S. population. The report concluded
the management of morbidity and chronic diseases becomes a
crucial area to address within the Latino community.
And according to a 2000 survey of the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, Latinos living in the United States are
almost twice as likely to die from diabetes than non-Latino
whites and have higher rates of high blood pressure and obesity
than non-Latino whites.
“These [conversations] are very important. There are so many
health needs in the Latino community. Collaboratively, we can
start addressing these issues,” Alejandro said. “We [Latinos]
have a fatalistic attitude or we leave it to chance. We say
‘well, whatever happens, happens.’ You have to know that you can
take control of your health. We don’t have to leave it up to
chance,” Alejandro concluded.