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Madison, Wis. ‒ Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off this week, and a UW Health physician is highlighting the community’s current state while also looking to the future of health for the Latinx community in Wisconsin.
The pandemic has thrown some health disparities into sharp relief, according to Dr. Patricia Téllez-Girón, primary care provider, UW Health, and associate professor of family medicine, UW School of Medicine and Public Health.
The Latinx population has long faced certain health concerns more than other ethnic groups, such as obesity and diabetes. There has also been a recent, alarming rise in suicides for young girls, according to Téllez-Girón, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only magnified these disparities.
“But it’s important to remember that our community is strong, resilient and has incredible community assets, as we continue to fight this terrible virus,” she said.
Addressing those disparities and breaking down barriers comes down to collaboration among Latinx-led organizations to prioritize health equity, Téllez-Girón said.
“We need to see continued investment and support of our Latinx-led organizations so we can address issues such as higher rates of obesity, diabetes and suicide and the need for more Latinx health care providers,” she said.
Collaboration has proven successful in the high COVID-19 vaccination rates; 86.6% of Hispanic people over 18 in Dane County received one dose of the vaccine compared to 76.6% of non-Hispanic white people.
Téllez-Girón spearheaded this effort to make the COVID-19 vaccine accessible to the Latinx community through the Latino Health Council of Dane County, working in close partnership with Centro Hispano of Dane County, Latino Academy for Workforce Development, Latino Chamber of Commerce, Latino Children & Families Council, UNIDOS and Public Health Madison & Dane County.
When partners like UW Health work with the community they serve to meet that community’s needs, real equity can be achieved, Téllez-Girón said.
The latest census data shows that the Latinx population is the fastest growing and largest minority community in Wisconsin.
“Wisconsin has been home to Latinx people for more than 100 years,” Téllez-Girón said. “This month and beyond, it will be vital for organizations to work with us to ensure the next 100 years are ones with better access to care, health and wellness.”