Pennsylvania Rural Communities Try To Address Health Needs of Increasing Hispanic Population
As "more Hispanics move into America's rural communities, health care providers ... are being forced to re-examine how they deliver services and consider new ways to help them overcome language and cultural barriers that obstruct access to care," the AP/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Hispanics are expected to become the largest minority population in rural areas by 2025, according to an analysis of census data by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Hispanics living in U.S. states that border Mexico, where communities lack basic services such as running water, have the most acute health problems among the Hispanic population, according to Amy Elizondo, vice president of program services for the National Rural Health Association. "You see a lot of overflow in emergency rooms" in the border communities, she said, adding, "You're looking at Third World country type problems," she added.
Obstacles to rural Hispanics receiving health service include language barriers, a lack of transportation, long work schedules, perceived discrimination and fears of deportation, according to a study commissioned by a Hanover, Pa., hospital and clinic that was conducted by Spanish psychiatrist Carol Vidal. The Hispanic population in Hanover and the surrounding area has more than doubled to about 5,600 from 2000 to 2006.
Efforts to address the situation include establishing bilingual community outreach programs, mobile health services and health education campaigns. "There are healthy ways and appropriate ways to bring the two communities together that the way they interact is mutually beneficial," Flavius Lilly, vice president of organizational and community development at Hanover Hospital, said, adding, "Part of our philosophy has been, if you alienate a group of people even more than they already are, you create social problems that didn't exist before" (Raffaele, AP/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 7/1).