NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – The city’s Latinos remain at a higher risk for preventable diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and asthma, and now there’s a new push to address some of the reasons behind it.
The disparities Latinos face in getting health care was at the center of a panel in Washington Heights on Saturday.
From his office in Harlem, Dr. Diego Ponieman, the director of Somos Community Care, says he sees some of the disconnects that are keeping Latinos from getting the care they need.
“I would say socioeconomic. I would say language barriers. I would say poverty,” Ponieman said. “It’s sometimes overwhelming to go to get an appointment. To get lost in the system.”
A new report from the nonprofit Somos Community Care notes that 62 percent of the city’s Latinos cite cost as a barrier, while 79 percent of providers think a lack of cultural understanding is another obstacle.
“The community needs to get healthier from the grassroots,” Ponieman said.
For example, while 60 percent of people in the Bronx are Spanish speakers, only 10 percent of the physicians there are.
Councilmember Mark Levine says it’s emblematic of the obstacles Latinos across the city face in getting health care.
“Latinos are more likely to be uninsured, to face barriers to getting primary care and preventative care, and it’s had devastating health consequences,” Levine said.
Those that are undocumented might be even more fearful of seeing a doctor, Levine said.
Something as simple as more translators in doctors’ offices and better nutritional options at grocery stores could go a long way, activists say, but in the meantime there needs to be more community outreach and cultural understanding.