On June 2, 2008, Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) hosted a Hispanic Health Care Forum at the Allina Commons, Midtown Exchange in Minneapolis. Ellison’s special guest for the evening was Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis (D-CA). Solis is the Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Task Force on Health and Environment and works on the Subcommittee on Health along with Congressman Ellison.
The main purpose for these forums are to increase awareness of health problem prevention; to generate more involvement and have more informed dialogue that empowers children and families without health care coverage.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are now more than 47 million Americans are without health insurance. This is an increase of 2 million people since last year, with children representing more than 25% of that increase.
Minnesotans are known as some of the healthiest Americans, but close to half a million Minnesotans live without a health care safety net. The Minnesota Department of Health indicates that despite the overall health status of the state, communities of color – African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and Native American Indians continue to experience poorer health and disproportionately higher rates of illness and death.
In particular, Latinos/Hispanics are less likely to have health insurance; children are less likely to be immunized; youth are more likely to be victims of violence; as a population experience higher rates of AIDS/HIV and individuals are more likely to die from diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Luz Frias – External Affairs Director for St. Paul was the other guest speaker. Frias talked about formation of the Minnesota Latino Health Care Action Council (MLHAC) and that group’s efforts to offer solutions to health disparities in Minnesota’s Latino community. The mission of the MLHAC is to facilitate collaboration between and among Latino focused individuals interested in increasing the overall health and well being of Latinos in Minnesota, while pooling collective resources.
The Latino Health Care Buyers Group (LHBG) is one of the ideas that surfaced from one of their many discussions. The LHBG would consist of nonprofit and for profit businesses. Their hope is to create an opportunity for Latino employers and their employees to have affordable health care.
Many of the participants expressed their appreciation for the wealth of information given by the presenters. Christine Norton from the Minnesota Breast Cancer Coalition thanked both members of Congress for supporting HR1157 – The Breast Cancer Environmental Research Act. “Although we have some bipartisan support, we still have a lot of work to do,” said Congresswoman Solis. Solis encourage the audience participate in a letter writing campaign as continued support until the bill passes.
Ellison said, “This is just another call for a greater level of civic engagement throughout the entire communities of color. This is a time, in which, if people put adequate presser on government, they can get what they want.” He believes that there is a need to build a national coalition around breast cancer awareness.
Ellison recently held a similar forum in North Minneapolis for the African American community. He is planning to meet with all communities of color in his congressional district as individual groups. Eventually, he wants to bring the groups together in one forum to begin building a Minnesota coalition that continues to advocate for Universal Single Payer Health Care for all Americans nationwide.
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