Gabriel Cardona, Latino Services Manager
Across the nation health issues are impacting communities. From opioid addictions to mental health, to the ongoing endemic of obesity and diabetes, health care accessibility to quality care is a concern for all.
For many communities Federally Qualified Health Centers help open doors to essential primary care services and health care needs addressing these issues. These centers, such as HopeHealth, are not free clinics. They do, however, offer programs and sliding-scale fees to help bridge financial barriers to health care access and provide quality, equitable care regardless of ability to pay. Business owners, corporate CEOs, banking executives, migrant workers and unemployed single parents are all examples of our patients who receive care at community health centers like HopeHealth.
Within the larger community, some populations face additional barriers to receiving timely health care. Language and cultural barriers, lack of access to preventive care, limited understanding of the health care system, and lack of health insurance are some of the factors that can impact the health of such populations. Millions of Latinos have left behind family and home in search of a better life and the “American Dream.” However, the dream to live with dignity, earn a living, and provide a good education to their children often becomes difficult due to these factors.
In South Carolina, the Hispanic population increased 161 percent between 2000 and 2012 – the most rapid growth across all states. The majority of this growing community are young, working families. Therefore, early prenatal care, pediatric well-visits, and chronic disease prevention are essential steps in keeping their families healthy. However, many of these working families rarely use the health care system except for childbirth and emergency services because of barriers including poverty, illegal residence, lack of insurance, fear of deportation, and mistrust of the health system.
These barriers may help explain why many Latinos don’t reach out for help until a time of crisis. The challenge for health care facilities and providers is to learn how cultural factors influence patients’ health decisions, beliefs, behaviors, and responses to medical issues in order to assure high quality care for all. The Latino Services Department at HopeHealth was established in 2016 to help overcome barriers specific to the Latino community such as language.
Since its inception, the department has been a leading example of cultural humility and a compassionate presence where immigrant families, whether insured, underinsured, or without insurance, can address mental health issues, obtain access to excellent patient care, prevention, treatment, and support services. Initiatives like HopeHealth’s Latino Services tackle these problems proactively by focusing on a variety of health aspects in Latino communities. This service includes using bilingual interpreters within the health care system. These interpreters have become an essential and growing part of the HopeHealth team in Florence and Manning: they help provide clear communications between patients and providers by breaking down the language barriers that hinder appropriate care.