Improving Health Disparities Within the Hispanic Community
with Sandra Caraveo of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Studies suggest that key barriers — including health insurance and citizenship status — prevent some Hispanic Americans from accessing quality health care.
Sandra Caraveo, National Programs Manager of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss health disparities within the Hispanic community and a campaign to get more Hispanics vaccinated against COVID-19.
August 31, 2021
Anderson: Recent studies indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacts communities of color, amplifying social and economic factors that contribute to poor health outcomes. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Studies suggest that several key obstacles prevent some Hispanic Americans from accessing health services and receiving quality healthcare, including health insurance or lack thereof, language barriers, and citizenship status. Joining me to talk about this gap in healthcare is Sandra Caraveo, National Programs Manager of the League of United Latin American Citizens, better known as LULAC. And Sandra, thanks for being here.
Caraveo: Thank you so much for having me on.
Anderson: So we know that COVID has been rough on everybody. It's hit minority communities particularly hard, in large part because of disparities. And when we say the word "disparity," I'm wondering if you can offer some clarification about what exactly we're talking about.
Caraveo: Absolutely. So one of the most pressing issues affecting Latinos in the United States is health. We're talking about disparities in access to any healthcare, quality of service. And then, of course, we're talking about many socioeconomic factors that contribute to some of this lack of access. We have a huge burden of preventable chronic illnesses in the Latino communities that should be preventable, but unfortunately have the opposite trend. We're talking about obesity, heart disease, cancer, mental health, HIV/AIDS, diabetes and strokes that really continue to be prevalent health issues within our community. LULAC's health programs focus on improving health outcomes through engaging our local councils, national partners, and corporate sponsors in campaigns dedicated to raising awareness, bringing direct services, and also inspiring healthy lifestyles for changes in our communities.
Anderson: So you just listed a whole laundry list of disparities. And that leads me to the question of why they exist. I mean, what's at the root?
Caraveo: There's several roots. We're talking about accessibility to even see a doctor. Many, unfortunately, don't have the luxury of being able to see a doctor for an annual checkup. We're also talking about barriers in language. There's so many that don't understand the English language. And unfortunately, there are not enough bilingual health professionals that can provide some of those services. We're also talking about several socioeconomic factors. Unfortunately, the cost associated with seeing a healthcare provider, also being able to maintain prescriptions, being able to have access to some of those testings. That is a really big issue. And when we're talking about quality care within Latinos, we've been seeing that there is a trend that there just simply is no representation. Currently, Latinos only make up 3% of clinical trials. When we're talking about trying to make strides in healthcare, we want to make sure that we're seeing more representation across the board, making sure that there are -- there is access to Latinos and our studies in being able to go ahead and provide quality healthcare.
Anderson: The good news here is that all of this has really opened the door to a wider discussion around the importance of health and action around the importance of health. And I'm wondering what it is that you've been seeing in the Hispanic community that really leads you to know that these conversations, these actions are actually happening.
Caraveo: Yeah. Because of the pandemic, this really put us out into the field talking to communities on a daily basis. We saw many gaps before the pandemic. And as COVID was really taking off, we saw a lot of the gaps in healthcare and access to it get even wider. So we wanted to make sure that we were listening intently to the Latino community, really being able to get to some of these root causes and trying to find solutions. What we noticed was really it comes down to being able to go ahead and educate our community, knowing what a healthy lifestyle is, talking about how to battle just some of the barriers that we are facing. With that, we are also seeing that really it comes down to a lot of communication and education, which is not provided in Spanish. So we are very intentional on the quality of programing that we provide to make sure that we are doing this in a culturally relevant manner, in a way that people can understand if they are not comfortable speaking English. So we do work with our councils and our partners in the community to be able to bring quality information in a really culturally relevant way and create multiple touch points from awareness to actually going through the check-ups to actually doing the follow-ups.
Anderson: So you talk about creating education that is culturally relevant, that can reach the community that it needs to, and you guys are actually doing that. You've got a very unique vaccination program that's ongoing. Tell us a little bit about that.
Caraveo: Absolutely. Vacúnate Hoy! is a landmark program for the organization. As we start seeing these new phases and waves of vaccinations, we want to make sure that we're driving Latinos to go and really take care of themselves against COVID-19. We developed this campaign really starting at multi levels of media communication, starting to utilize social media, radio PSAs, moving on to actually integrating our LULAC councils and partners by doing canvassing events across the country, by hosting pop-up clinics as well, where we're able to go ahead and drive the Latino community to get vaccinated regardless of their immigration status, of their language. We just want to make sure that people are getting the information that they need to make the decision to go ahead and get vaccinated. To date, we have held 23 nationwide campaigns in different cities and states across the country and we are really trying to drive these vaccination rates. During the summertime, we were looking at about a 10% vaccination rate for Latinos. Through our efforts, we've been able to raise that up to 21%, which we see as a victory. And we want to continue to be supporting that throughout the year.
Anderson: And Sandra, if people want to find out more about the important work that LULAC does, where can they go?
Caraveo: Sure, they can go ahead and visit lulac.org/health and vacunatehoy.org for any resources on vaccination.
Anderson: Sandra Caraveo, the League of United Latin American Citizens, better known as LULAC. Thank you so much for being here.
Caraveo: Thank you.
Anderson: And thanks to our viewers as well for watching. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, log on to comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.