Harris County Public Health (HCPH) has introduced a new pilot program to help the local Latino community battle chronic diseases.
The Latino Chronic Disease Cohort is part of a larger health initiative, Accessing Coordinated Care and Empowering Self-Sufficiency (ACCESS) Harris County. The initiative helps underserved communities that HCPH has identified as having critical needs.
Barbie Robinson is the executive director of HCPH. She said the Latino Chronic Disease Cohort will provide participants of the pilot with resources that ultimately determine health.
"That has an impact not just on the individual participating, but the entire family. You can see generational health outcomes based on the conditions you live in," she said. "Based on whether or not you have access to the social determinants of health like education, economic opportunity, and housing."
The cohort will also focus on teaching residents how to manage chronic diseases.
"Have you reduced certain factors relative, like, is your blood pressure at this number and now it's reduced to that number? Is your diabetes under control? Are you managing it well? Have you lost X amount of weight or whatever it is," Robinson said.
According to a report from HCPH, cancer and heart disease are the leading causes of death for the Latino community in Harris County. Harris County Commissioner Lesley Briones said that the Latino community also has higher rates of obesity and diabetes than other ethnic and racial groups.
"Latinos, we are almost half of this county... and, it is staggering, but nearly half of our Latino community here in Harris County do not have health insurance," Briones said. "So we want to make sure that these uninsured and underinsured individuals have this access to the care that they need."
The cohort was funded in part by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). In 2021, Harris County Commissioners Court approved $14.2 million in federal funding from ARPA to create ACCESS Harris County which was launched earlier this year. The ACCESS program model started in California, and successfully placed 30% of its unhoused and housing insecure residents into homes.
The Latino Chronic Disease Cohort began its pilot for the program last Friday, on the same day Hispanic Heritage Month began.
"We were happy that we were able to launch during that month, but we've been working, honestly, feverishly to stand up the program. The need is what's the driver. It just happened to coincide with that timeframe," Robinson said.