Cervical Cancer and Latinas: Twitter Chat This Tuesday!

By Ricky Garza, Communications Department, NCLR

How does cervical cancer affect you?

Your answer might be “not very much,” but you should know that all Hispanic women are at higher risk of developing the disease after contracting human papillomavirus (HPV).  Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take to minimize your risk.

This Tuesday, January 22 at 5:00 p.m. EST, find out what those steps are when Cervical Cancer Free America and the Center of Excellence in Women’s Health at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health partners with us to host a Twitter chat on cervical cancer and Latinas.  Follow #LatinoHealth on Twitter to join the conversation and promote preventative practices in your community!

We’ll be talking about commonsense ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from contracting HPV, including getting vaccinated, getting regular Pap tests, always using a condom, not smoking, and limiting your number of sexual partners.  More than all other ethnic groups, Latinas suffer from disproportionate diagnosis and eventual death from cervical cancer, but that can be changed with increased Pap tests and preventative measures.

Now, as part of health care reform, most women should qualify for a free Pap test without a co-pay at least once every three years.  Today, about three out of four Latinas have had a test in the last three years.  Together we can reach 100%!

Join us and Cervical Cancer Free America on Tuesday to make cervical cancer history!

As Fiscal Cliff Draws Nearer, There Is No Time For a Plan B

By Janis Bowdler, Director, Wealth-Building Policy Project

This New Year’s, many Americans across the country will have quite a bit weighing on their minds at a time when they are supposed to be clinking champagne glasses and making their resolutions for 2013.  In less than two weeks, our country will go over the fiscal cliff, resulting in a tax hike for millions of Americans and severe funding cuts to education, health care, and housing programs, to name a few.  That is unless Congress and the Obama administration can reach a deal on the federal budget.

For a brief moment earlier this week, it appeared that both sides were willing to compromise.

But that glimmer of hope was fleeting, and it seems negotiations are at a standstill.  Republican leadership is now pushing “Plan B,” which the House will vote on tonight at 6:00 p.m.

Simply put, “Plan B” is bad for Hispanic families.  It fails to meet NCLR’s principles for a fairer federal budget.  The plan further reduces tax liability for those at the top while pushing working families toward poverty.

The wealthiest would be the big winners should this plan pass.  Under “Plan B,” millionaires would get an estimated $50,000 tax cut, while 25 million middle class families making less than $250,000 a year would see their income taxes increase by an average of $1,000 apiece.  And,millions would lose access to the Child Tax Credit, as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit, which are valuable tools that help prevent many Latinos from falling below the poverty line.

All of this while also allowing the sequester to move forward, gutting critical investments in education, jobs, and housing.  For example, in many poor districts, where federal funding covers a substantial portion of their budgets, for every $1 million that a school district receives in federal funding, sequestration will take away $82,000.  For districts with disproportionately large Hispanic and Black populations, that loss could have devastating effects.

“Plan B” is not a viable option for Latinos or this country.  Thankfully, President Obama has already issued a veto threat.  However, that does not mean both sides should stop trying to reach an agreement.  We strongly urge House Speaker Boehner and President Obama to put America’s working and middle-class families ahead of politics.  We need a fair approach to deficit reduction where everyone pays their share.

We must end this stalemate.  Far too much is at stake for the American people.  Nobody wins if we go over the fiscal cliff, and the clock is almost up.

Latinos Say No to Medicaid Cuts

By Jennifer Ng’andu, Director, Health and Civil Rights Policy Project, NCLR

With Congress knee-deep in efforts to reach a deal that will avert the fiscal cliff, decision-makers are eyeing health care as a place to cut overall costs.  That’s fair.  Health care spending is the gargantuan elephant in the room (you know, 17.9% of GDP, which is more than the entire economy of France and most other countries).  But in most of the recent discussions about saving money in health care, budget negotiators are focusing on quick fixes that help reach a magic number of cuts instead of making efficient changes that lower long-term spending, often without regard to how the cuts affect people.  This is a dangerous move that could put vulnerable communities—particularly working Latinos and their families—at risk.  And it could be the undoing of one of the most critical health care programs in America.

Medicaid is a health insurance lifeline for those without any other options for accessing affordable care.  For Latinos, who more often than not are denied offers of health insurance in the workplace, the role of the program is even more substantial.  In 2011, 14.5 million Latinos were covered through the program.  That’s more than one in four (27.6%) in the community.  In the same year, the program served as an even more critical resource for our children.  More than half (51.4%) of Latino children under 18 were on Medicaid or its sister program, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The very last time Medicaid hit the chopping block, hundreds of Latinos wrote in to NCLR overnight to share how the program was making a difference in their lives every day.  Rigo from California’s testimonial was one that could be shared by many Latino families:

As the parent of two special needs teenage children since birth, and with no medical insurance from my employer, it is extremely important for us to keep our Medicaid insurance intact.  My family, and thousands of other families throughout this nation, cannot afford to lose our Medicaid coverage for our children. Continue reading

Latinos Are Watching How Elected Officials Respond to the Fiscal Cliff

By Janis Bowdler, Director, Wealth-Building Policy Project

NCLR hosted a national call today for leaders from the NCLR Affiliate Network, the NCLR Action Network, members of the press, and others engaged with the Hispanic community for a discussion on how to address the country’s budget challenges with a balanced approach that protects vulnerable families.  We were joined by Rep. Xavier Becerra (D–CA); Jason Furman, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Principal Deputy Director of the National Economic Council; and Julie Rodriguez, Associate Director of Latino Affairs and Immigration for the White House Office of Public Engagement.  In case you missed it, the call was recorded and is available at www.nclr.org/federalbudget.

According to the exit polls, more than 12 million Latinos cast their vote last month.  Like all Americans, Latino voters went to the polls with the economy on their minds.  The Hispanic community has spoken, and they overwhelmingly favor a fair, balanced, and shared approach to deficit reduction.  More than 700 people signed up for today’s call, which shows that our community’s deep civic participation is continuing.  Hispanic voters are watching carefully to see how federal policymakers address the so-called fiscal cliff in ongoing debates on the federal budget.

NCLR Affiliates on the call wanted to know if lawmakers and the Obama administration will raise taxes on working families or gut critical investments in students and workers.  For example, Dixon Slingerland, Executive Director of the Youth Policy Institute in Los Angeles, raised the issue of unemployment among Latino youth, which is over 20 percent nationwide.  He stressed the importance of providing services for Latino disconnected youth who are interested in returning to school or finding work.  Dixon made a strong case for policymakers to shift their focus to a major jobs package to address the persistent unemployment crisis.

Cynthia F. Figueroa, President and CEO of Congreso de Latinos Unidos, based in Philadelphia, pointed out that poverty and inequality have risen greatly over the last four years in our nation’s urban centers.  Parents are working multiple part-time jobs or low-paying full-time jobs to make ends meet.  In this economy, the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit have been lifelines to Latino families and children.  She pressed the White House to stand firm and not sacrifice these potent antipoverty tools.  Figueroa also highlighted the importance of investing in kids and maintaining important funding for education programs that our youth need.

Olivia Mendoza, Executive Director of the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy & Research Organization in Denver, shared that one in four Latinos in Colorado and two-fifths of children statewide rely on Medicaid for vital health coverage.  It is no secret that Medicaid is a prime target for cuts.  She asked how the White House would protect the gains won through the Affordable Care Act.

Finally, Stephen Torsell, Executive Director of Homes on the Hill in Columbus, Ohio, called attention to the ongoing fight against foreclosures and vacant and abandoned properties in his state.  He asked how the administration aims to preserve funding for vital housing and financial coaching services such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Housing Counseling Program, which has been to be one of the most effective ways of preventing unnecessary foreclosures.

NCLR appreciates the time that the White House staff took to respond to these questions and others by leaders serving Hispanic families.  We hope the administration and Congress take notice of the issues put on the table by those closest to the community.

Latinos sent President Obama back to the White House because of his commitment to fighting for working families.  The fiscal cliff is his first opportunity to act on those campaign promises.  We all agree that something must be done to lower the federal deficit.  However, it is wrong to ask working families to sacrifice education, health care, and their children’s well-being to give tax breaks to people and corporations that do not need them.  Smart investments in education, jobs, and housing will help hardworking families move up the economic ladder—and that will benefit us all.  This is our vision of a fair economy where prosperity is shared by everyone and the most vulnerable among us are protected.

Sin Vergüenza: NCLR Affiliate Produces Telenovela to Raise AIDS Awareness

By Ricky Garza, Communications Department, NCLR

Do you know anyone who is HIV-positive?

It’s a hard issue to talk about, but one that our Los Angeles–based Affiliate AltaMed Health Services Corporation has committed to tackling head-on.  AltaMed is the largest independent federally qualified community health center in the U.S., serving 930,000 people annually in the Southern California area through 43 locations.

In honor of World AIDS Day, AltaMed produced a short web telenovela-style series called Sin Vergüenza (Without Shame) about an East Los Angeles Mexican American family dealing with HIV/AIDS.

With a seven-minute format and compelling storylines set up from the start, the series features many characters familiar to Hispanics who are at risk of contracting HIV.  A cheating spouse, a gay son in law school, and a younger daughter with a long-term boyfriend all seek to break stereotypes and dispel myths about who is and isn’t at risk of getting the disease.

According to AltaMed, Latinos account for one in five of all new HIV infections, and 1.2 million Americans are living with the virus as well.  Surprisingly, 20% of HIV-positive people don’t know they are infected.  For those engaging in high-risk behaviors such as needle-sharing and unprotected sex, AltaMed recommends getting tested for the virus as soon as possible.

Whether gay or straight, male or female, young or old, no one practicing risky behavior is immune to catching the disease.  Using condoms during sexual activity, even if you are already HIV-positive, is essential to stopping the spread of disease and giving HIV to others.

World AIDS Day, first observed in 1988, was conceived to raise awareness about the global AIDS pandemic by the United Nation’s World Health Organization.  Today it is observed in all UN member countries worldwide.

With this in mind, check out the first episode of Sin Vergüenza, which introduces the Salazar family and sets the stage for what’s to come in the multipart series. See for yourself!

Two White House Events Highlight Our Role in Making Latinos Healthier

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

For Hispanic Heritage Month this year, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) had an opportunity to participate in two very exciting events at the White House that celebrated the history, culture, and contributions of Latinos in the U.S.

A September 26 briefing focused on the promotores de salud (community health workers) program model.  Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and former NCLR Senior Vice President, opened the session by talking about the importance of addressing Latino health issues in a culturally competent manner.  Other high-level government officials and community-based researchers followed by sharing examples of successful promotores projects.

The highlight of the event, however, was a memo from President Obama honoring National Promotores de Salud and Community Health Workers Day.  In the memo, President Obama said that promotores “play a critical role in closing our country’s healthcare gaps,” and through their tireless efforts promotores are contributing to the well-being and health of this nation.  The president’s recognition of the hard work that these committed professionals and volunteers do give hope to the future of promotores programs.  These vital members of the community have been underappreciated for many years.

For the second event, NCLR had an opportunity work directly with the White House Office of Public Engagement to organize a Latino Health Policy Briefing for our Board members and Affiliates.  On October 11, approximately 30 Affiliate leaders and Board members gathered from throughout the country to participate in this briefing, which emphasized the Affordable Care Act.  The briefing provided an opportunity to elevate the key interests and needs of our Affiliates as we enter a new stage of health care reform implementation.  Our Affiliates and Board members heard from Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, the top health appointee from the National Economic Council, and the U.S. Chief Technology Officer on improving access via system transformation, achieving health equity, and improving cultural competency in service delivery.

Now that Hispanic Heritage Month is over, we are moving forward with a clearer understanding of the Obama administration’s approach to addressing the growing health needs of the Latino population.  We can be proud of what Latinos have done to make us a healthier country.



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.