Klineberg on Health in Houston

Houston is a minority majority population. How Houston's changing demographics relates to health care was a topic of conversation today at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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Two things are happening to Houston's demographics. One is the baby boomer generation. Rice University Sociologist Doctor Stephen Klineberg says the senior population is disproportionatly anglo.

"Obviously, because it was not until 1965 that the law was changed that allowed non-Anglo's to come to this country. They are overwhelmingly Anglo baby boomers and the young people who will replace the baby boom in the leadership positions of America in the 21st century are considerably less priveleged and disproportionately non-Anglo. That's true across America, no where is it clearer than in Houston because Houston is a city of migrants."

In Harris County, 72 percent of people 60 and older are Anglo. Klineberg says 75 percent of those under 30 are non-Anglo.

"Here we are. Every institution in this city has been built by, for and on behalf of Anglos. Every one of them has to transform itself to be a place that can reach out and communicate and welcome and bring in people coming from different backgrounds and different experiences."

So what can medical institutions do? Professor David Wetter chairs MD Anderson's Health Disparities Research Department. He says medicine is going to have to take a different approach including doing more outreach.

"MD Anderson for example I know has a mobile mamography van. we also have a prostate outreach program in underserved communities. But it also can be outreach in terms of making our services available to individuals in the community who may not have traditionally been our major source of patients."

Wetter says clinical trials are one example. On the other side of the equation, Wetter says M-D Anderson is working on attracting employees from all different backgrounds to diversify the workforce. Wetter and Klineberg recognizes the opportunity. The Census Bureau has said that before the middle of this century the entire country will be majority minority.

"That American future is already here. How Houston navigates this transition, with what kind of wisdom, sensitivity, committment to building a truly successful, inclusive, multi-ethnic society will have enormous significance not just for the Houston future, but for the American future."

Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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