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Hispanic Heritage Month: Time to Rejoice in the Beauty of our Culture

Celebrating Latino heritage means rejoicing in our culture and its differences, commemorating our traditions and applauding our accomplishments. It means feeling proud of our background and exposing others to the beauty that surrounds our lives. For many Latinos who have migrated to the United States, Latino Heritage Month is a way to maintain our connection with our roots and to showcase the beauty that makes up our Latino culture. For those who were born in the U.S. it is a way to maintain the memories of our ancestors alive and to explore the depths of our heritage.

Older adults, our abuelitos and abuelitas or for some our parents, are the ones who always make sure that our families don’t forget where we came from. Our values, our music, and literature, our cuisine even our holiday traditions, the older generations ensure that we keep those alive, and they teach us to value them. We all have that one song that reminds us of our grandparents or the villancico that brings us back to the noche buenas spent with our cousins in our grandparents home. This is why older adults are so respected in our community. They are the ones who remind us of our Latinidad. Without them and their knowledge, their history, we would not be complete, our cultural knowledge would be limited and our children would never know the traditions of our ancestors.

An important aspect of celebrating our culture is remembering those traditions that were passed down from our older adults and cherishing their importance in our heritage. I remember when I was young and I would spend hours in the kitchen “helping” my grandmother cook-I mostly licked spoons and made messes- but I remember how much she loved those times. I now understand that because of those countless hours spent in abuelas kitchen, I cherish Latino cuisine. All those recipes and the love for her food were passed down to me and they are now rooted in me to be passed down to future generations. When people ask me where I learned how to cook, or where I got that recipe I am always proud to say that it came from my abuela, it gives me a definite sense of pride in my culture and my traditions. I’m sure each of you has memorable times spent with abuelo and abuela that give you a sense of pride in your Latino heritage.

On this Hispanic Heritage Month let’s take the time to remember those traditions that our older adults tried so hard to keep alive. Let’s commemorate our customs by cooking our grandmother’s favorite dish, or teaching our children to dance to some of our traditional music. There is so much diversity to be celebrated and passed down to future generations, take advantage of this month-long celebration and show those who are not Latinos the beauty of our culture.

 

The Importance of Latinos in Clinical Trials

Latinos comprise one of the U.S.’s largest ethnic groups, making up 17% of the U.S. population; however, they only make up 1% of those participating in clinical trials, according to data from the National Press. This is concerning as Latinos have a higher rate of chronic disease and are one of the fastest growing demographics in the nation.

Clinical trials are generally research studies that examine if a treatment or medical strategy is effective for individuals with a certain illness. Sadly, the participation of minorities in clinical trials across the United States is under-represented.

For example, according to the University of California, Davis, African Americans experience the highest incidence of cancer (593.7 cases per 100,000 people) but, along with Hispanics, both have the lowest rates of cancer clinical trials participation at 1.3% (UC Davis, 2014).

Dr. Yanira Cruz, President of National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), points out that Latinos face barriers to participation in clinical trials. These include language and cultural differences, lack of education, health literacy, and a dearth of information on clinical trials.

Generally, invitations to participate in clinical trials are in English, which my limit the participation of Latinos who are limited English proficient. Moreover, Dr. Cruz stresses that cultural factors may also discourage Latino participation in clinical trials.

For example, some Hispanics rely on faith when faced with health issues rather than treatment. Latino families are also often very involved in medical decisions and may be hesitant to have their family member participate in clinical trials. Finally, in Hispanic culture, individuals need a trust relationship between patient and physician, which often is not established before the start of a clinical trial; therefore, they do not feel comfortable participating in the trial.

Low levels of health literacy and formal education also create an obstacle in accessing services, benefits, and knowledge of medical procedures. A participant with low levels of formal education often finds it difficult to understand medical terms and procedures inherent in clinical trials. “In occasions when the concepts of the research are not clarified for the participants, they will have doubts about how the clinical trial works and its effectiveness. The purpose, benefits, and risks must be understandable for Latinos for them to participate,” said Dr. Cruz.
IMG_1504During the National Convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NABJ/NAHJ), held on August 4, 2016 in Washington DC, Dr. Yanira Cruz participated in a panel discussion “Increasing diversity in Clinical trials” sponsored by Eli Lilly and Company. The panel discussion focused on the lack of minorities participating in clinical trials. In encouraging more Latinos to participate in research trials, Dr. Cruz stressed that, “It’s important that Latino communities be seen as a subject of development and not only as a subject of study.” Doctors, researchers, and recruiters must have cultural sensitivity and empathy to be able to understand and gain more participation from the Latino community.

 

 

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In addition, the panel discussion also addressed the role of mass media communications in encouraging Latino communities to participate. During the discussion, Dr. Cruz emphasized that, “Mass media communications and clinical research are a matter of social responsibility.”

 

 

For example, the media was quick to cover unethical research in the past, such as a trial in Guatemala, during which more than 1,500 individuals were infected with syphilis, after having been given false information that the trial was to seek the cure of sexually transmitted diseases. Bringing such abuses to light is an important media role; however, it is also important that the media highlight the benefits to individuals and public health of the majority of trials that are conducted in a highly ethical manner. It is also an important media role to inform populations about clinical trial opportunities in their geographic area.

It is critically important that ethnically diverse groups participate in clinical trials, since disease impact and the effectiveness of treatment varies according to gender, age, genetic background, lifestyle and other factors. Participation in clinical trials is a moral imperative for ethnically diverse communities as one’s participation can not only open doors to improving one’s own health, but can benefit many others in one’s own community.

2014 State of Hispanic Older Adults: Stories from the Field

Dr Yanira Cruz at NHCOA 2014 Capitol Hill Briefing

Older Americans are living longer, not better

For many seniors across the country, aging in dignity is not possible because they cannot meet their basic needs. While Americans are living longer, statistics show that we are experiencing more chronic conditions, less economic security, and less food security. Older and aging Americans – especially Hispanic older adults – are facing unthinkable choices between eating meals and buying needed medications. Many need to return to the workforce to make ends meet, and many are living in poor housing. Today, more than ever, addressing aging issues is vital.

The thought of a senior stocking up on cat food instead of tuna is truly appalling.

Yet, during our 2014 Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meetings in Florida, Texas, and in California, we were confronted with a troubling reality: seniors are going to bed hungry.

Many seniors, who depend on their Social Security checks shared that their fixed incomes weren’t enough to pay rent, buy food, and purchase their medicines. And then, a participant spoke the unimaginable: “Food is so expensive here that I know some seniors are eating cat food to make ends meet and not starve.”

Giving older Americans a much-deserved voice

On Thursday, November 13, NHCOA released its latest report, Status of Hispanic Older Adults: Stories from the Fielda data and testimonial-driven status report with policy recommendations that captures the hardships and challenges shared by seniors during the regional meetings arising from the lack of policies, programs, and strategies to address the aging and diversification of our U.S. population.

Participants:

  • U.S. Representative Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA)
  • U.S. Representative Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM)
  • U.S. Representative Tony Cardenas (D-CA)
  • Cindy Padilla (NHCOA Board Member)
  • Kate Lang, Staff Attorney, National Senior Citizen Law Center
  • Dr. Jaime R. Torres, President, Latinos for Healthcare Equity
  • Jose Perez, Executive Director, Senior Community Outreach Services (McAllen, TX)
  • Francis Rizzo, Community Advocate (Dallas, TX)
  • Harry Paraison, MPA, Executive Director, DH Perfil Latino (Milville, NJ)
  • Elizabeth Jimenez, Director Senior Programs, Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Ariel A. González, Esq., Director, Federal Health and Family Advocacy, AARP

NHCOA 2014 State of Hispanic Older Adults Report Release

Read the report and click on the photo for more photos from the briefing.

 

 

 

STD Awareness Month: Infórmese. Hágase la prueba. Involúcrese.

April is STD Awareness Month, which is the perfect time to have open and honest discussions about the alarmingly high STD infection rate in the U.S.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 20 million new STD cases each year, which result in $16 billion in treatment costs.

Among the long list of sexually transmitted diseases is HIV, which is the virus that causes AIDS.  What was once considered a disease that only affected a small subgroup of the population has become an epidemic in the Hispanic community in recent years.  In 2009, Latinos represented about 16 percent of the U.S. population, but accounted for 20 percent of the new HIV infections.  Additionally, the rate of new infections among Latinos is two and a half times as high as that of white men and the rate for Latinas is more than four times that of white women.

While the conversations surrounding HIV/AIDS have become more open in recent years, older Americans are still mostly overlooked. However, the past three decades have taught us that HIV/AIDS does not discriminate in who it infects.  In 2009, people ages 50 and older represented 23% of AIDS diagnoses in the U.S. In the Latino community, the rates of HIV/AIDS among people ages 50 and over were five times higher among Hispanics compared to non-Hispanic whites.

In an effort to spread awareness of HIV/AIDS and its impact, NHCOA joined the CDC and several other national organizations in the Act Against AIDS partnership. NHCOA focuses on HIV/AIDS education and prevention efforts for Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers. By providing linguistically, culturally, and age-appropriate education materials, NHCOA’s goal is to empower Hispanic older adults to spread the HIV prevention message to families and youth by capitalizing on the high level of respect and regard they have within the community.

Overall, the facts speak volumes and confirm that HIV/AIDS cannot be ignored, especially within the Hispanic community. NHCOA urges you and your loved ones to use STD Awareness Month to find out your status.  There are HIV and STD testing centers across the country that can deliver fast and secure results.  So this month: infórmese. Hágase la prueba. Involúcrese.

NHCOA Proudly Supports the SSI Restoration Act

Washington, DC – The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) – the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families and their caregivers – endorses Rep. Raul Grijalva’s introduction of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Restoration Act – H.R. 1601: To amend Title XVI of the Social Security Act to update eligibility for the Supplemental Security Income program, and for other purposes.

The benefits of the SSI Restoration Act would be particularly impactful for Hispanics. According to the Social Security Administration, the average Hispanic male older adult earned $12,921 from Social Security, and the average Hispanic woman received $10,438. Although, the current maximum SSI payment is $710, many receive less than this amount. Strengthening SSI will mean more economic security for Hispanic older adults, such as staying out of poverty and being able to avoid making the choice between medication and food.

The purpose of the SSI Restoration Act is to improve the current SSI program to meet the needs of today’s economic reality. It would increase the earned-income-exclusion-amount to $357 per month and provide a bit more economic security to those who need it most and it would repeal the SSI in-kind support and maintenance provision, allowing older adults to be cared for by their loved ones without having to worry about having their only source of income reduced.

“We commend Congressman Grijalva for his leadership in introducing the SSI Restoration Act to strengthen the program for the future. We urge other members of Congress to join Congressman Grijalva in supporting SSI,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO of NHCOA.

NHCOA is hopeful that the SSI Restoration Act passes, for the values of a society are reflected in the way we care for our most vulnerable.

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The Chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) is Harmful for Hispanic Older Adults

For Hispanic seniors, one of the main sources of reliable income comes from Social Security. Without the Social Security program, their poverty rate would be over 50%.[1] And although Social Security benefits allow Hispanic older adults to live just above the poverty line, its benefits are still not enough to bring them complete economic security.

Hispanic older adults will be facing another burden in Social Security by the Chained Consumer Price Index (CPI), which was recently announced in President Obama’s budget proposal. The chained CPI to calculate Social Security’s cost of living adjustment would be especially harmful to Hispanic older adults because it cuts the benefits of Social Security by reducing their annual cost of living adjustment. Low-income older adults cannot alter their spending to purchase less expensive items, as the chained CPI assumes they can. In fact, many Hispanic older adults have already reduced their spending to basic necessities. Overall, Hispanics have longer than average life expectancies,[2] but they are disproportionately affected by diabetes and lack of immunizations.[3] Longer than average life expectancy, combined with health disparities, means Hispanics greatly rely on Social Security for income security in their later years.

  • The average annual Social Security benefit for Hispanic men is $12,921 and for women it is $10,438.[4] The chained CPI would cut these benefits by nearly $1,000 for a 75-year old.[5]
  • According to the Census Bureau, 18.7% of Hispanics 65 and over live in poverty.[6]
  • Without Social Security, the elderly Hispanic poverty rate would increase from roughly one out of five to one out of two.[7]
  • Social Security currently benefits over two million Hispanic households, nearly one out of every six Hispanic households.[8]

In an effort to protect the Social Security program and help increase economic security of Hispanic older adults, NHCOA makes the following recommendations:

  • Preserve the benefits of Social Security and do not alter the cost of living adjustment calculation to a standard, like the chained Consumer Price Index, that does not accurately reflect the cost of living for older adults.
  • Implement reforms to Social Security that ensure its long-term solvency, that maintain its guaranteed benefits, and that do not reduce benefits to current or future beneficiaries.
  • The federal government should take a leading role in creating defined benefit pensions, like Senator Tom Harkin’s USA Retirement Fund, that are universal, pool risk, place minimal administrative burden on employers, and provide incentives to all workers, particularly low-income workers, to begin saving early and regularly.
  • To help older adults become self-sufficient and maintain their independence, increase funding for programs like the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which are specifically designed for older adults.

NHCOA encourages you to take action to show your support for Social Security and oppose the chained CPI by calling and emailing President Obama and your members of the Senate and House of Representatives.

  • To find your member of the House of Representatives, click here.
  • To find your Senators, click here
  • Call Congress toll-free at 1-888-876-6242 and tell your Representative and Senators not to reduce the Social Security benefits we have all earned.
  • To email President Obama, click here.
  • To call President Obama, dial 202-456-1414 or 202-456-1111 and tell him that you oppose the chained CPI.


[1] Torres-Gil, Fernando et al. “The Importance of Social Security to the Hispanic Community,” Washington, DC, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2005.

[2] National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2011: With Special Feature on Socioeconomic Status and Health. Hyattsville, MD. 2012.

[3] The Office of Minority Health, “Hispanic/Latino Profile,” at http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/browse.aspx?lvl=2&lvlID=54

[4] Social Security Administration, “Social Security is Important to Hispanics,” 2013, at http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/factsheets/hispanics.htm

[5] The Chained CPI-U Proposal: A Devastating Benefit Cut for Latino Seniors. Latinos for a Secure Retirement. July 2011.

[6] United States Census Bureau, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance, 2011,” 2012.

[7] Torres-Gil, Fernando et al. “The Importance of Social Security to the Hispanic Community,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2005.

[8]  U.S. Census Bureau, “Selected Economic Characteristics,” in 2006-2010 American Community Survey.

5 Things You Should Know Before This Week’s Capitol Hill Briefing on Health Care Access

This Thursday, December 13, NHCOA will host a Capitol Hill briefing to discuss access to health care among Hispanic older adults. Here are five things you should know:
  1. National data shows that Hispanics are less likely to report receiving regular checkups and don’t have a regular source of care.
  2. High rates of poverty among Latino seniors forces tough decisions like choosing between buying groceries or paying for prescriptions.
  3. Hispanic older adults are underserved my Medicare, including Part D.
  4. The lack of access to regular care increases the risk of developing a chronic condition. Chronic conditions are already impacting Hispanic older adults at higher rates: Between 2000 and 2010, the prevalence of two or more chronic conditions among those aged 65 and over increased 18% for non-Hispanic black, 22% for non-Hispanic white, and 32% for Hispanic adults.
  5. There will be two panels of experts will be speaking about health care access at the briefing, and members of Congress will be present.

Join us to learn more about why these issues are impacting Hispanic older adults and what we should do at the policy-level to solve these issues. For RSVP information, time and location click here.