This blog post is part of the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) Community Working Group’s Blog Carnival entitled, Health Equity Can’t Wait!, to celebrate April as National Minority Health Month. You can find all posts in the blog carnival here. And you can join us on Twitter, using hastag #HealthEquityNow, Friday, April 27 from 3-4 EDT for a Tweet Storm on health equity.
As the only national organization advancing the reproductive health and justice of 20 million U.S. Latinas, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health takes health disparities very seriously.
We know that Latinas suffer from cervical cancer at rates disproportionate to other groups. Among all racial/ethnic groups, Latinas have the highest incidence of cervical cancer, a rate that is nearly twice that for white non-Latina women. Latinas have the second highest rates of cervical cancer mortality, after black women, although mortality rates increase for Latinas increase along the southwest border.
Cervical cancer is not the only place we see disparities. Latinas suffer from a number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at higher rates than their white non-Latina counterparts. Chlamydia and gonorrhea disproportionately impact our community and can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and other reproductive health consequences. Additionally, the AIDS case rate for Latinas is about five times higher than that of white women.
So what is the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health doing to take action for health equity?
Advancing health equity lies at the core of our work.
Health equity is a matter of social justice: Here at NLIRH, we work to change systems and institutions that create barriers, decrease the quality, and increase the cost of health care for Latinas. Through policy advocacy, we call for changes to federal, regulatory, and state policies to improve access and quality of care for U.S. Latinas. Through community mobilization, we center the experiences of Latinas and lift the voices of Latinas for greater reproductive health and rights. Through public education, we educate the elected officials, researchers, and the public on pressing reproductive health issues. NLIRH recognizes the myriad challenges Latinas face to accessing reproductive health care, exacerbated by poverty, gender, racial and ethnic discrimination, and xenophobia, and as such, we advance a national policy agenda which includes immigration policy, LGBTQ policy, and other intersectional work. As Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted recently, nothing is more fundamental to opportunity as good health. And despite the advancements of the past decades, with the implementation of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Latinas and immigrant women still suffer from health care disparities which unjustly limit opportunity.
Health equity is a matter of reproductive health: Reproductive and sexual health care services are some of the most important forms of care for Latinas of reproductive age. Yet financial barriers, lack of health insurance, fear associated due to immigration status, fear of bias and discrimination by providers, and cultural and linguistic barriers (among others) decrease access to everything from contraception to quality maternity care. For instance, according to research from Hart Research Associates, more than half of Latinas ages 18 to 34 report that the cost of prescription contraception has interfered with their ability to use it consistently. Additionally, in a survey of transgender people’s experiences with discrimination in health care, 19% of respondents reported being refused care due to their transgendered or non-gender conforming status. By working for health equity, we bring down barriers to the reproductive health care that Latinas need.
Health equity is a matter of reproductive justice: We need an equitable and sustainable health care system to empower Latinas to make the best reproductive health care decisions for themselves. We need a health care system that looks at the whole person and recognizes that access to transportation, language interpretation, cultural competency, child care, and extended hours on weekends and nights are important to advancing the health of communities of color. Advancing health equity in this way will advance reproductive justice by creating a health care system that truly supports the hopes and dreams of Latinas, their families, and their communities.
¡Soy Poderosa! Lifting Latina Voices for Health Equity!
Despite the challenges, Latinas are PODEROSAS who fight for health equity in their communities across the country. Our poderosas in Texas continue to fight for reproductive justice in the Rio Grande Valley, despite an outright disregard for the reproductive and sexual health of women of color, including Latinas, by the current political system. Our poderosas in Florida are fighting anti-reproductive health and anti-immigration forces, while building bridges in social justice coalitions. Our poderosas in New York are fighting for the DREAM Act, as they see educational advancement and a path to citizenship as matters of reproductive justice. And poderosas throughout the country raised their voices in support of health reform to celebrate the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA.)
And the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, with the strength from our poderosas, will continue to advance health equity, for example by supporting the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA), as a way to build upon the health equity foundations set in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and removing barriers for immigration women and LGBTQ Latin@s.
With support from Latinas across the country and by working in coalitions like the Health Equity and Accountability (HEAA) Community Working Group, we will work towards securing health (la salud), dignity (la dignidad), and justice (la justicia) for Latinas, their families, and their communities.