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U.S. Health Initiative Targets Aging Hispanics

They're especially vulnerable to diabetes but often lack care, experts say

TUESDAY, Sept. 11 (HealthDay News) -- A U.S. federal effort aimed at boosting the health of Hispanic seniors, especially when it comes to diabetes care, is set to launch in eight communities nationwide.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) are sponsoring the new HHS Hispanic Elders Health Initiative.

The project developed in response to findings from the National Healthcare Disparities Report 2006 prepared by the AHRQ. That report found that persistent and growing health disparities exist among Hispanic/Latino elders compared to the majority, non-Hispanic white elderly population.

Hispanics comprise the largest minority group in the United States, and the number of older Hispanics is growing rapidly. By 2050, Hispanics will be the fastest growing population in the 65-and-over age group, reaching 15 million.

Historically, there have been a number of financial, organizational, cultural and linguistic barriers to providing appropriate health and social services to Hispanic elders that have added to their growing health disparities.

The community programs will pilot in metropolitan Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City; San Diego, and the Texan cities of McAllen and San Antonio.

The goals of the program include helping older Hispanics increase their access to health benefits such as the new Medicare prescription drug program and low-cost evidence-based preventive care.

Each community will develop and implement a plan to address one or more health disparities. Diabetes topped the list of concerns for the majority of the community members. Twenty-three percent of Hispanic elders have diabetes compared to 14.3 percent of their non-Hispanic peers. They are also more likely to be hospitalized for diabetes due to poor disease management. According to national data, they are also less likely to receive pneumonia or flu shots or participate in cancer screenings.

"This pilot project will help these communities enhance the health and well-being of their Hispanic elderly population by encouraging the use of evidence-based information and the new benefits available under Medicare," said AHRQ director Carolyn M. Clancy in a prepared statement. "Our ultimate goal is to eliminate health care disparities for Hispanic elders and other vulnerable populations."

More information

For diabetes information in Spanish and in English, visit the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.

-- Madeline Vann

SOURCE: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, press release, Aug. 23, 2007

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