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2013.03.11 > For Immediate Release
contact: Charley Reed - University Communications
phone: 402.554.2129 - email: cdreed@unomaha.edu

UNO, UNMC Research Shows Major Disparities in Health and Access to Care for Latinos and Immigrants in Nebraska, Iowa

Omaha - The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s (UNO) Office of Latino and Latin American Studies (OLLAS) has released a report and policy brief, in conjunction with the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), describing the serious health problems facing the growing Latino and immigrant populations in Nebraska and Iowa, particularly the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area.

The Health Profile Report focuses on the overall health disparities facing the Latino population, which grew by nearly 93 percent between 2000 and 2010 in Nebraska. The policy brief presents evidence for major barriers to access medical care for Latinos and immigrants and the potential impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to improve health insurance coverage. The brief also outlines some potential solutions.

The research comes on the heels of another report issued by OLLAS in December about the economic impact of immigrants in Nebraska and Iowa. Both documents are provided in English and Spanish and can be accessed at the OLLAS website at www.unomaha.edu/ollas.

OLLAS Director Lourdes Gouveia, Ph.D., stressed that tackling critical issues, such as health and healthcare access disparities addressed in the reports, requires collaboration across disciplines.

“The UNO Office of Latino and Latin American Studies and UNMC colleagues joined forces so we could begin to address a mutual concern over the growing gap between active health-care policy agendas affecting minorities and immigrants in the region and the virtual absence of research and inclusive discussions informing these agendas,” Gouveia said.

The research was a collaboration between OLLAS; the Center of Reducing Health Disparities, Center for Health Policy and Department of Health Promotion in the UNMC College of Public Health; and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human ServicesOffice of Health Disparities and Health Equity.

Some of the more alarming findings in the report show that over 35 percent of Hispanic or Latino adults aged 18 to 64 in Omaha and Council Bluffs do not have a primary care physician, the overall sexually-transmitted disease (STD) rate for Hispanics and Latinos was nearly three times the rate for non-Latino whites and the rate of obesity, as a measure of body mass index (BMI), was higher for Hispanics and Latinos than any other group.

Dr. Shireen Rajaram, a UNMC College of Public Health researcher and co-author of the reports, explained that the reports’ dissemination would begin to address some of Gouveia’s concerns. “Our hope is to start the dialogue to raise awareness among community members and academics and bring people together to develop innovative, linguistically appropriate and culturally sensitive evidence-based initiatives that will improve the health and well-being of the community,” she said.

Athena Ramos, program coordinator for UNMC’s Center for Reducing Health Disparities and co-author of the Health Profile remarked: “As the ethnic group with the highest rate of uninsured citizens in the state, Latinos often face a number of challenges in accessing health care services. Racial and ethnic disparities in health care access and quality will continue to grow until we address the root causes of these problems.”

In order to move the conversation forward in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area, the policy brief asks a series of questions and explores initial answers regarding the impact of the ACA on Latinos and immigrants, as well as of state-level health reform initiatives.

According to the brief, 36 percent of Latinos in Omaha and Council Bluffs do not have insurance, compared to nearly 80 percent of non-Latinos.

“The full implementation of the ACA, including the Medicaid expansion, would provide health insurance to thousands of Latinos in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area and has the potential to cut the number of the metro area's uninsured in half,” said Dr. Jim P. Stimpson, associate professor of Health Services Research & Administration and main author of the fact sheet.

Both documents were produced with support from a combination of funders that include the UNO College of Arts and Sciences, UNMC College of Public Health, the Mammel Foundation, Iowa West Foundation and other anonymous donors.

For questions about these documents, please contact Lourdes Gouveia at lgouveia@unomaha.edu or by phone at 402.554.3835. For media inquiries, please contact Charley Reed, media relations coordinator at cdreed@unomaha.edu or by phone at 402.554.2129.

For more information on OLLAS, please visit www.unomaha.edu/ollas.

For more information on the UNMC College of Public Health, please visit http://www.unmc.edu/publichealth.

For more information on the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, please visit http://dhhs.ne.gov.

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The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s metropolitan university. The core values of the institution place students at the center of all that the university does; call for the campus to strive for academic excellence; and promote community engagement that transforms and improves urban, regional, national and global life. UNO, inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908.

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