NCLR’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Program Takes Top Honors

By Manuela McDonough, Program Manager, Institute of Hispanic Health, NCLR

Luck is in the air in San Francisco this week. Not only did the Giants sweep the World Series earlier this week, but NCLR (National Council of La Raza) received an award from the American Public Health Association (APHA) for a cervical cancer prevention program we developed. Thousands of public health professionals are in the Bay area for the week attending the 140th APHA Annual Meeting & Expo, the largest gathering of public health professionals in the world with a focus on current and emerging health science, policy, and practice issues in an effort to prevent disease and promote health.

With funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NCLR created a program, titled “Mujer Sana, Familia Fuerte” (Strong woman, Strong Family), that is a culturally competent and linguistically appropriate education program for Latinas about the importance of engaging in early cancer screenings. With rates of cervical cancer affecting Latinas disproportionately high, we’ve seen an urgent need for culturally competent and linguistically appropriate health educational materials that address cervical cancer among Latinas in an innovative and creative way. The program provides promotores de salud (lay health educators) with training and a bilingual tool kit for educational sessions within Hispanic neighborhoods in Chicago and Washington, D.C. At NCLR, we are doing all that we can to ensure that health materials are providing messages that are effective with the Latino community to make a long-term impact.

The award-winning program was selected from a competitive pool for demonstrating innovation in materials targeting a specific population. Focus groups helped determine the best approach and terminology for increasing knowledge and changing behavior related to cancer screening in a way that would resonate with Latinos. The bilingual tool kit—which includes a flip chart and handouts on local resources—is designed for promotores to use during one-hour charlas (health education sessions) in their communities.

NCLR is thrilled to have received this award from APHA. Given that the cervical cancer rates among Hispanics are nearly twice that of non-Hispanic Whites, this award highlights how important it is for public health programs to take cultural issues into consideration, work with community leaders, and use bilingual materials. We look forward continuing our efforts to address the health needs of our community.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Attends White House Latino Health Policy briefing

By Patrick Paschall, Policy Counsel, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

(This was originally posted to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Blog.)

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a briefing at the White House about Latino Health Policy. This was a briefing organized by our friends at the National Council of La Raza, and was an excellent opportunity to hear from a variety of government officials about ways in which the administration is working to eliminate health disparities among the Latino/a population.

I learned a lot of interesting things and heard from an impressive list of speakers, including Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and the directors of many agencies within HHS.

While I knew the Affordable Care Act did a lot to help Latino/a people, I didn’t realize some of the striking information that was shared at this meeting. For example, nearly one-third of Latino/a people were uninsured in 2011, higher than any other racial or ethnic group. And 20% of low-income Latino/a youth have gone a year without a health care visit – a rate three times higher than that for high-income whites.

But what was really striking is just how substantial an impact the landmark health reform law has on this vulnerable community. For example, because of the ban on lifetime dollar limits — the practice that insurance companies use to claim you’ve spent too much on health care so we won’t pay for your needs anymore — has made it so 11.8 million Latino/a people no longer have to worry about going without cancer treatments or other life-saving treatments because of dollar limits.

Additionally, insurance companies are now required to allow parents to keep their children up to age 26 on their insurance plans. This means that over 2.5 million young adults have gained coverage because of the new health care law, including 736,000 Latino/as.

You can find more information on these issues at:

We also know from Injustice At Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey that the impact of racism and transphobia has a devastating impact on Latino/a transgender people. The report, which was conducted by the Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, found that:

  • Latino/a transgender people an HIV-positive rate 14 times greater than the general population.
  • 23% were refused medical care due to bias.
  • 36% reported postponing care when they were sick or injured due to fear and discrimination.
  • And a striking 47% of Latino/a transgender people have attempted suicide.

At the Task Force, we have always held ourselves out as a progressive organization — an LGBT voice in the progressive movement and a progressive voice in the LGBT movement. We focus our work at the intersections of race, socioeconomic status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, ability and a whole host of other intersecting identities. The White House Latino Health Policy briefing is just another example of that voice — we were the only LGBT group in the room and the conversation wasn’t focused on LGBT specific issues. But we went to the briefing because we understand the importance of intersecting identities and of working with other marginalized communities to build our collective political power.

The expansion of health insurance access helps us all — especially those that are most vulnerable in our society. We have talked about it on this blog frequently – we co-hosted a webinar with the Center for American Progress to explain how the health reform law helps LGBT people, we’ve talked about the changes to cover women’s preventive services with no co-pay and we have highlighted the opportunities for LGBT people to find health insurance coverage for themselves and their families through the health plan finder tool.

But it is also important for us to understand the impact of discrimination and health disparities on marginalized communities other than just the LGBT community. And the White House Latino Health Policy briefing was an enlightening glimpse at a world of health policy work that still needs to be done and a review of the recent progress we’ve seen. We would like to extend a huge thanks to our friends at the National Council of La Raza for inviting us in to the discussion and continuing our important partnership in this work.

With Dream of Homeownership Threatened, Candidates’ Silence on Housing Issues Elicits Frustration

By Janis Bowdler, Director, Wealth-Building Policy Project

How do you convince somebody to fix a problem when they are seemingly blind to the overwhelming evidence that the problem even exists? Today, 11 million Americans owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth. Analysts predict that we will see an estimated two million foreclosure filings this year with millions more at risk of losing their homes. As a result, hundreds of thousands of senior citizens are losing their economic security, children and families are being uprooted, and neighborhoods are blighted with vacant properties.

The nation’s housing market is in a precarious position, and despite millions of homeowners across the nation bearing the brunt of the housing crisis, too few of the decision-makers on Capitol Hill are championing the necessary solutions to protect the American Dream of homeownership. And in the midst of a presidential election, the onus falls on the two candidates to carve out serious proposals to navigate homeowners out of this colossal mess. But when political strategy dictates that its best for both candidates to avoid the issue altogether, it becomes incredibly challenging to push for the type of national conversation we need.

Recently the Home for Good campaign—a collaboration of more than 70 civil rights, community, and public interest groups—reached out to homeowners across the country for help. In the end, nearly 40,000 people signed on to our call, asking the presidential candidates to offer real solutions to:

  • Stop needless foreclosures
  • Expand affordable rental housing
  • Revive a sustainable path to homeownership

Along with signatures of tens of thousands of concerned voters and advocates, we have offered a blueprint for restoring home opportunity called the Compact for Home Opportunity. We have made it especially easy for them. The Presidential candidates have our signatures and a plan, now the ball is in their court.

It’s important for both candidates to remember that while they may choose to skirt the issue until Election Day, there will be no hiding from the housing crisis over the next four years. Housing has traditionally led previous recession rebounds, so it is no wonder that our economic recovery has dragged alongside a weak housing market. We must address the crushing mortgage debt overhang, keep families in their homes, and bring new homeowners into the market.

Important housing policy questions are looming. Will the candidates lean on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to stop dual tracking, a practice that moves families through foreclosure before they know if they could qualify for a loan modification? Will they give away resources for housing counseling and low-income renters in the pending “Grand Bargain?” It’s these kinds of details that have been completely absent from both candidates’ platforms.

The financial crisis has decimated neighborhoods, wiped out family wealth, and ruined financial futures, but it has not changed the central role the home plays in our lives. We continue to seek shelter with a few basic amenities—safe streets, good schools, and access to quality jobs. It is time that candidates speak frankly with voters and explain what they plan to do to ensure that families who dream of owning a home can make that dream a reality.

Don’t Let Congress Push Our Future Off the (Fiscal) Cliff

By Liany Elba Arroyo, Associate Director, Education and Children’s Policy Project Yesterday, NCLR released the Latino Kids Data Explorer, a unique resource that combines information from several sources into one easy-to-use tool. Advocates, policymakers, and even parents can use this database to see how Latino and other children in their state are faring according to 27 different measures of well-being. The data make one thing clear: we have to pursue stronger policies that create opportunities for children and their families. While Latino children have made gains in several areas such as health insurance coverage and preschool attendance, the reality is that Latino children, as well as Black children, lag far behind their White counterparts in almost all measures of child well-being. This should be of great concern to us all given that Latino children, as one of the fastest-growing child populations in the country, will not only make up our future workforce but also pay the taxes that sustain our nation. If our political leaders shortchange this crucial population during the upcoming conversations on the national debt, they will end up pushing our children off a “fiscal cliff” from which they may never recover. Last year, policymakers in Washington agreed on a deal to extend tax cuts until December 31, 2012. They also scheduled massive budget cuts to take place concurrently. On January 1, 2013, Americans will be hit with cuts to vital programs in education, health, housing, and job training, as well as a tax hike, unless Congress takes action. This “fiscal cliff” would cause serious harm to families and could slow down or even reverse economic growth, potentially increasing unemployment while simultaneously gutting programs intended to help struggling families. Hispanics must pay close attention to how Congress addresses this issue because the wrong approach can cause long-term damage to our community.

Latino children, and all poor children, will face a double hit if Congress makes draconian cuts to the programs that so many of them depend on to survive. The first hit comes in the form of decreased access to our nation’s safety net and the education they need to become productive members of society. Our nation runs the risk of backtracking on the progress that Latinos have made over the last decade in graduating from high school, obtaining health insurance, and attending preschool. The number of Latino children living with mothers who have less than a high school education or live in poverty will likely rise.

The second hit—cuts to entitlements—will not affect the current generation, but it will have an unquestionably disproportionate effect on these same children down the road. Hispanic children will enter adulthood to find our safety net in tatters. Cuts to Social Security and Medicare will be acutely felt by a poorer and potentially less healthy generation.

As a Latina, voter, and mother, I ask myself how that is fair. How can our leaders pass the burden on to today’s children? Why would our nation’s leaders condemn young Latinos to a childhood of neglect and an adulthood of suffering? Why would they kill the American Dream for nearly one-quarter of our nation’s children? These are questions that all Latinos, and all Americans, must ask themselves. Then we must resolve to make a difference. Our community must inform itself and act to ensure that our nation’s leaders get the message: our community will not let them damn our children to a lifetime of poverty.

Is it Time for the Media to Stop Using “Illegal?”

By Ricky Garza, Communications Department, NCLR

In the ongoing debate over immigration reform, the topic seems to finally have shifted to the people affected themselves—the over 12 million undocumented people living in the U.S. without papers, their children, and their family and friends.

When I first arrived at Georgetown University four years ago, I was struck by the nonchalant way some of my new peers in Washington referred to the “illegals” crossing the border and to our “immigration problem.”  It was jarring given where I had come from:  the majority Hispanic Rio Grande Valley in Texas.  For most of my life, a variety of immigration statuses among neighbors and friends was an accepted fact of life, and an unfortunate side-effect of a patchwork immigration policy applied in one of the most heavily Hispanic regions of the United States.

Some people were citizens, others legal residents, and others went without papers or even driver’s licenses, although those facts were hardly advertised.  To ask or assume whether someone was in the country legally—and skin color definitely isn’t a factor in McAllen, Texas which is 85% Latino—was impolite at best and downright discriminatory at worst.

Our identities were not defined by a “legal” or “illegal” status worn on our sleeves.  My friends in high school worried about grades, joined clubs, and applied to colleges for the most part not concerned about who was or wasn’t undocumented, or if that friend who spoke Spanish more than English was really “American enough.”  My whole life was lived not imagining this could be the most important aspect about someone.  But traveling outside of my hometown and listening to the national news, I found a very different story—widespread talk of “illegal immigrants” overrunning our country and taking our jobs.  In that climate, one might never have guessed that the daily life I experienced in McAllen could be possible.

News outlets like the New York Times and the Associated Press often use the term “illegal immigrant” as a concise way of signifying a person who entered the country without permission.  But how can a person be illegal?  Adding the “illegal” adjective to a noun representing a person makes the person himself, rather than any act he committed, illegitimate.

Those who support using “illegal” often say, “They committed a crime, so they are illegal,” but this is a highly dubious and inaccurate assertion.  Entering the United States without authorization is a civil offense, not a criminal one.  Does committing another civil offense like getting a speeding ticket once, perhaps even decades ago, make you an “illegal driver” for life?  No—but our continued use of this term to characterize those who committed the civil offense of entering the country without documentation betrays a deep prejudice and skepticism about the legitimacy of America’s largest minority group.

The use of the term “illegal” is more than an issue of semantics; it is about offense and dehumanization.  Describing undocumented Americans this way shifts the focus to the circumstances of their national entry and rejects the totality of their varied identities and personhood.  Parents, students, and college graduates are suddenly reduced to an act that they may not even remember committing.

Ending the use of these words in the media won’t by itself create immigration reform or quickly improve the lives of those affected, but it can provide for a much-needed change in the conversation where empathy for the real people concerned is felt by Georgetown students and Texas border residents alike.  Acknowledging this and the offense the phrase “illegal immigrant” creates in the Hispanic community, the San Antonio Express-News, Huffington Post, ABC, and NBC have all agreed to end their use of the term.

For the sake of accuracy and respect for the 50 million Hispanic Americans in the United States today, it’s time for the rest of the media to follow suit.

Ricky Garza is an intern with the NCLR Communications Department.  He is currently a senior at Georgetown University majoring in International Relations.

Why We’re All About Purple Today

Today is Spirit Day, and that means we’re joining thousands of people, organizations, and corporations throughout America in going purple to show our support for LGBT equality and our opposition to bullying.

For us, there is no question that the fight for LGBT equality is an integral part of the broader fight for civil rights, which is why we are proud to call ourselves allies of the LGBT community. We recognize that when our communities work in tandem, we become stronger and move forward together.

Members of the Latino community, however, already know this:

  • According to a 2012 Pew Hispanic Center report, 59% of Hispanics say that “homosexuality should be accepted by society.”
  • According to a 2010 Bendixen & Amandi International poll:
    • 80% of Latinos believe that gay people often face discrimination.
    • 83% of Latinos support housing and employment nondiscrimination protections.
    • 73% of Latinos support gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.
    • 75% of Latinos support school policies to prevent the harassment and bullying of students who are or perceived to be gay.
    • 55% of Latinos (and 68% of Latino Catholics) say that being gay is morally acceptable.

Those are the numbers, but just who are these Latinos? Well, many of them include members of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) staff. Today we’re taking the opportunity to feature some of them. The folks below are but a sampling of the many supportive staff members who believe wholeheartedly in LGBT equality and the mission to defeat bullying in all forms..

I’m a proud LGBT ally because my best friend and her new wife make a beautiful family. –Maria Moser (she’s in the black suit on the left), Director of Education, Midwest, NCLR

Vanessa Belsito, Senior Associate, Corporate Relations, Resource Development, NCLR

Ruben Gonzales, Deputy Vice President, Resource Development, NCLR

Meet Maya (above) and Bobby (below), two of the LGBT community’s youngest supporters. They’re also the lovely children of our Director of Education, California & Far West, Feliza Ortiz-Licon.

Sherry San Miguel, Graphic Designer and Project Coordinator, Integrated Marketing and Events, NCLR

Naomi Sosa, Integrated Marketing and Events, NCLR

Samantha Ferm, Marketing & Outreach Manager, Integrated Marketing and Events, NCLR

Maria Fischer Millet, Senior Event and Meeting Planner, Integrated Marketing and Events, NCLR

David Castillo (left), New Media Manager, Communications, NCLR, and his partner, James G. Holmes.

Ellie Klerlein, Associate Director, Digital Organizing, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation, NCLR

Octavio Espinal, Associate Director, Office of the President, NCLR

So tell us: What does Spirit Day mean to you?