Friday, October 21, 2011

Baltimore City Health Department Releases First Latino Health Report

As the Health Department works to reduce disparities and improve the health of all Baltimoreans, it is important for us to have a solid understanding of the strengths and health challenges faced by particular groups. As the fastest growing segment of our city, Latino Baltimoreans are one population whose health status we must examine more closely. To this end, we have released the first ever examination of the health status and trends among Baltimore’s Latino residents.

In general, Baltimore’s Latino population is ethnically diverse and relatively young (median age is 27 years, compared to 35 for Baltimore overall). The report revealed some encouraging news about the status of this group, who were found to have lower overall mortality and infant mortality rates. It also revealed that fewer Latinos are smokers – 16 percent of adults, compared to 28 percent of all Baltimoreans.

However, Latinos in Baltimore still face a number of significant health challenges, including lack of health insurance and medical homes, high incidence of binge alcohol drinking, and death by accident - which is the third leading cause of death among this group.

The report was released yesterday during an event held at Baltimore Medical System’s Highlandtown Healthy Living Center, which sits in one of the largest Latino communities in Baltimore. BMS has served between 8,500 and 9,000 patients for whom English isn’t their first language. They employ bilingual physicians and other staff, many of whom also have multi-cultural backgrounds that help them understand the needs of patients from other countries. For Baltimore's growing refugee population, BMS also provides foreign language interpretation for initial health screenings and ongoing medical care.

As one of the largest providers of health care to the Latino community, Baltimore Medical System has long recognized the importance of providing culturally appropriate healthcare and language access services. President & CEO Jay Wolvovsky supports their mission to provide healthcare to all residents of the community – especially the underserved. Over the years, the demographics in Baltimore City have changed dramatically, and BMS has changed with them. Today, 25% of their staff is bilingual, and they offer many services that help patients overcome barriers to care.

I would like to thank Baltimore Medical Systems for their strong support of Latino healthcare in Baltimore and their partnership in the release of The Health of Latinos in Baltimore City.
For the first time, we see how Latinos living in Baltimore City compare to city residents as a whole, and Latinos statewide and nationwide. In bringing together data about Latino health, this report can serve as a tool for public health efforts to advance the health of the Baltimore City Latino community. It’s my hope that this report also will spark conversations about setting priorities for action and new ideas for change.

Check out the full report, available in English and Spanish, on our Website. And here are links to media coverage of the release in the Baltimore Sun newspaper and WJZ TV.

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