What do Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Canada, and Switzerland have in common? These countries have left the United States in the dust concerning the most evolved public healthcare system.
According to an April 2021 article in the US News, our country holds a limping 22nd spot on the critical list. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) website’s most recent information reflects 32.8% of uninsured individuals interviewed were under the age of 65.
During my research for this article, I came across even more concerning facts. In 2019, The US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health disclosed the highest uninsured group of any ethnicity is Latinos. In fact, only 50.1% of Latinos were covered by private insurance compared to 74.7% non-Latinos. The Latino community is at a clear disadvantage in the healthcare space.
These are all issues that beg attention, but our country’s hurdles do not end there.
The professional medical community is also experiencing a lack of Latino representation. In a modern society known as one of the world’s wealthiest democracies in the world, our country is facing a healthcare implosion largely impacting our culture on both the patient and managed care side.
In Sacramento, California, a student-run clinic is influencing its underrepresented Latino resident community by providing free health education and medical care. Clinic Tepati was established in 1974 and has become invaluable to the people that go there. The majority of its patients are Spanish-speaking Latino/Hispanic men and women whose financial and social resources are limited, particularly the undocumented population. Frequently, this is the only option for people with a language barrier. The proper support is key to ensuring patients receive a proper evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment plan. Having these services encourages Latinos to seek professionals when they are sick.
The clinic comprises UC Davis undergraduate and medical students who saw an important gap in the community that needed to be filled. These “healers” (Tepatli is the Nahuatl word for “healer”) decided to offer time and expertise to their community. Serving the underprivileged has become the mission of these medical professionals after observing the many challenges they face.
Latino patients sometimes come to the clinic for fear of repercussions. If they go to a general hospital, it can be difficult to deal with doctors from different cultural backgrounds due to unconscious bias. It discourages visiting city hospitals or medical centers because there is a lack of sensitivity demonstrated when dealing with a different culture —generalizations made on behalf of physicians, leading to a wall of distrust that is hard to overcome.
Hospitals are facing another struggle that is not exclusive to that part of the country. Although Latinos make up 39% of California’s population, only 6% of doctors identify themselves as Latino, which should concern all of us.
We need representation in every area of society in order to move everyone forward successfully, especially when health is concerned. People want to see others that look like them in positions that will help them feel seen.
Some experiences are unique to a specific culture. Having someone there to communicate and understand you at a level both relate to is critical to the physical and emotional well-being of the community.