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Reflections on the Latino Health Equity Conference

On Friday, March 8, 2013, I attended the second annual Latino Health Equity Conference at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). This conference, organized by the Hispanic Health Opportunities Learning Alliance (H2OLA) and funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, is a project of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) / CSULB Center for Latino Community Health, Evaluation, and Leadership Training, in collaboration with the CSULB College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the College of Health and Human Services.

Cover of Latino Health Equity Conference Program

This year’s theme was “Enriching Health Sciences through Latino Leadership / Enriqueciendo Las Ciencias De La Salud A Través Del Liderazgo Latino.” This conference provided a unique opportunity for interested individuals and professionals to collaborate with national thought leaders, build consensus, make recommendations, and develop strategies to promote health equity for Latinos and all underrepresented minorities nationwide.

Topics of discussion included immigration and acculturation, mental health, community-based participatory research, the impact of the Affordable Care Act on Latino health, and the effectiveness of culturally grounded intervention strategies. Discussions were led by scholars from California, Arizona, Texas, and Arkansas. Dr. Jennifer Unger described a longitudinal study on acculturation and substance use of Hispanic adolescents in Los Angeles during the transition to emerging adulthood. Dr. Vickie Mays discussed the importance of ongoing community engagement during community-based participatory research. Keynote speaker, Dr. David Hayes-Bautista, discussed his professional journey and the discrepancy of how Latinos are portrayed in the media versus what actually happens statistically on average. Dr. Felipe Castro described his work in multivariate model analyses of cultural factors in the design and cultural adaptation of prevention interventions, to reduce risks that include type 2 diabetes and substance abuse in Hispanic/Latino(a) populations. The afternoon featured three breakout sessions on health equity research, careers in medicine, and the Affordable Care Act and effective community-based research.

According to the 2010 Census, Americans of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 16 percent of the United States population (50.5 million), and are expected to grow to 30 percent of the US population by 2050. Nearly 28 percent of the US Hispanic population lives in California (14 million). Within the Pacific Southwest Region, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, and San Jose have the highest Hispanic populations, and East Los Angeles, Santa Ana, Salinas, Oxnard, and Downey have the highest percentage of Hispanics. Despite the large population, Latinos experience lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and stroke compared to other ethnic/racial groups, even though statistically they use fewer medical services. However, due to acculturation, limited English proficiency, and other health disparities, these rates are expected to increase.

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