Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
October 25, 2000
Marilyn Riley (609) 984-7160
TRENTON - Improving the health of New Jersey's Latino population will take the combined efforts of community and religious groups, the health care community, higher education and government, according to a report from participants in the first statewide Latino Health Summit.
The report was issued today to Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant. It contains a series of recommendations to increase Latino access to health care, increase the number of Latino health care workers, and improve data collection on health conditions and causes of death among Latinos.
Last June, 250 leading Latino decision-makers attended the Latino Health Summit 2000, "A Call to Action for Eliminating Health Disparities for Latinos." They discussed strategies for eliminating differences in health status - including higher rates of certain diseases, and lower rates of health insurance coverage - between Latinos and other groups in New Jersey. The historic summit was the second of two conferences on minority health. An African-American health summit was held in September 1999.
"These groundbreaking summits have made people much more aware of the differences in health status that divide our state. Through this summit, we've also begun the important process of building the partnerships that are needed to reduce these health disparities," said Commissioner Grant.
A department-wide work group has already begun reviewing the minority health summit reports, Grant noted. The group will recommend to the Commissioner steps the department should take in the next year to begin dealing with issues raised in the reports. Recommendations from the Latino Summit will be forwarded to Governor Christie Whitman, as were the recommendations from the African-American conference.
The Latino Summit report released today was prepared by the Latino Health Advisory Committee, which helped organize the summit with the department's Office of Minority Health. Included in the report were recommendations to:
"As a result of the Summit, we now have a focused agenda that the Latino community, government and health professionals can use to improve the health of Latinos and all New Jerseyans," said Elsa Candelario, chair of the Latino Health Advisory Committee and executive director of the Hispanic Family Center of Southern New Jersey.
"This historic summit was a call to action to all New Jerseyans," said Dr. Maria Soto-Greene, co-chair of the Latino Health Advisory Committee's summit planning group and associate dean for special programs at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. "Individuals, organizations and entire communities must take an active role in shaping the future of Latino health."
Commissioner Grant noted that the Department of Health and Senior Services has expanded cultural competency training for its many grantee agencies. The state also has a number of programs focused on the health needs of minorities and the uninsured.
Using money from the state's tobacco settlement, the state has expanded screening programs for breast, cervical, prostate and colorectal cancer. More than 70,000 children have been enrolled in NJKidCare, a subsidized children's health insurance program for low- and moderate-income working families. The effort is being expanded to uninsured adults through the NJ Family Care program announced earlier this year.
"Minorities nationwide have disproportionately experienced illness and premature death," said Linda Holmes, director of the department's Office of Minority Health. "As health officials nationwide grapple with the problem of disparities, they are looking to New Jersey's efforts in this area. I've gotten calls from a number of other states interested in what we're doing."
The report from the Latino Health Summit is available on the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services web site, www.state.nj.us/health.