Health & Science

Hispanic Business Community Takes a Look at Health of Latinos in Houston

Latinos in Houston are more likely to be uninsured than other residents and more likely to suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes. The Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce brought together health experts to discuss the problem Tuesday.

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Latinos in Houston are more likely to be uninsured than other residents and more likely to suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes. Hundreds of Hispanic businessmen and women gathered downtown at the Hilton Americas to hear from healthcare executives like Dr. Ron DePinho, the president of MD Anderson Cancer Center.

"Cancer is an enormous problem in the Latino community. It is the leading cause of death," DePinho said.

Latinos are less likely to be screened for cancer, DePinho explained. They're also less likely to exercise and eat well – behaviors that put them at higher risk for many preventable cancers.

Other speakers urged Hispanic business owners to offer their workers insurance coverage and also other medical services like flu vaccines, as a way to reduce sick days and insurance costs.

Dr. James McDeavitt of CHI St. Luke's Health touted the hospital system's new cohort of diabetes educators.

"We have these CDEs, certified diabetic educators in our offices right now and we want to put CDEs in your businesses, to reach out to your employees," McDeavitt said. "That's a service we'd like to offer you and that's my call to action."

McDeavitt added that helping employees lose weight and control diabetes involves difficult behavioral changes, which often require face-to-face intervention.

"Someone who is going to sit down with you, spend the time, look at your lifestyle, do dietary counseling, spend the time needed to actually help you change your behavior," he said.

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce does not endorse any particular health policy, such as the Affordable Care Act. But organizers of the conference explained that the health status of Hispanics has become a business issue in Houston, where 44 percent of the population is Hispanic.

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