EL PASO — The U.S. Commission to End Health Care Disparities invited doctors and researchers from all over the country to El Paso to figure out how millions of uninsured minorities can get better treatment.
The event in early September also marked the inauguration of a new biosciences building at the University of Texas at El Paso. The new building will facilitate medical research on illnesses common to minorities.
The Commission (CEHCD), which was founded in 2004, was created in an effort to stimulate awareness about inequalities based on race, gender and economic status in the world of health care. The CEHCD, with more than 65 member organizations, promotes diversity in the workplace, increasing education and training as well as better data gathering.
Dr. Willarda Edwards, president of the National Medical Association stressed the importance of organizations working together towards a common goal. “It is really a pleasure to work so much with our commission members and to work with others who have the same purpose in mind, which is to provide better quality care for all Americans, to make our nation a more healthier nation and to make health equity a major priority,” she said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the top five leading causes of death among Hispanics are diabetes, strokes, unintentional injuries, cancer and heart disease. Similarly, the most common causes of death among African Americans are heart disease, cancer and strokes.
Additionally, according to the U.S. Census Bureau report for 2008, out of the 46.3 million Americans without health insurance, 7.3 million are African-American, 14.6 million are Hispanic. The uninsured rate for Asians was 17.6 percent. The number of uninsured Americans is expected to rise by another six million if unemployment reaches 10 percent according to Urban Institute researchers.
In another study conducted by UI researchers, the approximate cost of racial and ethnic health disparities focused on preventable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and stroke will cost the healthcare system 23.9 billion dollars this year. Medicare will spend another 15.6 billion and private insurers will spend 5.1 billion.
“Knowing that in the year 2042, 1 out of 4 Americans will be Hispanic, we really do believe that health reform is needed,” said Dr. Elena Rios, president of the National Hispanic Medical Association. Rios said that a top priority of the NHMA is to work on healthcare reform that will benefit everyone. Rios added that Hispanics are quickly becoming the backbone of American economy.
Dr. James Rohack, president of the American Medical Association, posed an important question for those in the medical field to ask themselves, “How can we make sure that America evolves to a nation that regardless of who you are, you can have health insurance and the security that you will be able to keep it?” Rohack added that uninsured Americans should be able to have health insurance that is readily available at any moment in which it may be needed.
Before the inauguration of the Biosciences Building on the UTEP campus the following day, various doctors presented their plans to conduct research in finding cures for diseases such as HIV, diabetes, West Nile Virus, influenza and cancer.
Dr. Sidney McNairy, has helped provide the adequate research facilities at universities with large Hispanic and black student populations that offer doctoral degrees in biomedical and health sciences played an important role in helping UTEP obtain the funds needed to complete the new facility.
In his address, “Investments in Minority-Institution Capacity-Building,” McNairy stressed the importance of continuing medical research with the ongoing challenges of an aging population along with the emergence of infectious diseases and acute illnesses becoming chronic. He also said medical research advances must be made in an attempt to save human lives and not account for profitability.