Leggett Joins Latino Health Steering Committee To Release Blueprint for Latino Health Report

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett today joined the Latino Health Steering Committee of Montgomery County for the release of the “Blueprint for Latino Health in Montgomery County, Maryland 2008-2012”.

The health status report outlines the most pressing issues facing the more than 120,000 Latinos living in Montgomery County and recommends strategies for improving the health of Latinos in the community.

“We are concerned about the health status of all of our county residents and the Blueprint will be invaluable in providing guidance and direction in developing programs that will improve the health and human service outcomes for Latinos in our community,” said Leggett.

The report found that 50 to 60 percent of Latinos in the community lack access to health care services. In a 2005 Montgomery County Latino Cancer Survey, only 50 percent of the respondents indicated that they have a primary health care provider.

Results from focus groups conducted among low-income Latinos reveal that the top health issues include the lack of health insurance and the cost of heath services, the limited number of bilingual and bicultural health care services staff.

Also the limited number of early detection and prevention services, the need for a continuum of care and better coordination between services, the unavailability of adequate transportation and the limited hours of operation.

Other top concerns included the lack of dental services and culturally and linguistically competent mental health services. The influx of Latinos into the county over the last two decades has transformed Montgomery County into the most diverse community in Maryland.

Latinos represent nearly 14 percent of the county’s population. More than 65 percent of Latinos in Montgomery County are recently arrived immigrants of Central and South American origin.

According to the Community Foundation for the National Capital Area, nationally, immigrants are a net fiscal benefit to the country’s economy, pay more in taxes than they consume, contribute to the social security system and create jobs.

As the Latino population continues to grow, its contributions to the county’s economic, political, social and cultural landscape will continue to increase and accordingly, County services must reflect evolving demographics and related health trends.

In 2002, the Latino Health Initiative, a program of the County’s Department of Health and Human Services, released the “Blueprint for Latino Health in Montgomery County, Maryland, 2002-2006.”

The report formed the basis for the development of medical care and public health systems to address basic health needs of the Latino community.

The 2008 Blueprint updates the original report and reflects current concerns and needs of multiple Latino populations.

“The Latino community is vibrant, young and fast growing with an enormous capacity to enrich the county and strengthen basic institutions,” said Steering Committee Member Olivia Carter-Pokras, associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

Carter-Pokras added that the limited data available on the incidence and prevalence of disease among Latinos suggest that Latinos have higher rates of diseases that compromise health and quality of life, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, HIV/AIDS, obesity, suicide and liver disease.

Higher morbidity rates among Latinos point to the need for improved chronic disease prevention, treatment and management, particularly because Latinos are disproportionately uninsured and have limited access to linguistically and culturally competent care.

The 2008-2012 Blueprint marks the culmination of an eighteen-month process that engaged more than100 members of the community, stakeholders from public and private health entities, and community-based organizations.

The 2008-2012 Blueprint offers data on Latinos, identifies ongoing challenges, proposes solutions and is designed to be used as a tool to get involved and act to improve individual and community health in Montgomery County.

The report outlines seven action-oriented priority areas, such as ensuring access to and quality of health care and enhancing community participation in decisions that affect the health of Latinos.

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