24 Sep National Hispanic Heritage Month Provides an Important Reminder: Do Better
September 15th marked the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to celebrate and honor the culture, achievements, and innumerable contributions the Latinx community has provided for our nation.
But this is also a critical period for reflection, as we acknowledge the disproportionate suffering this community has been subjected to during the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Lyndon Johnson established Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, which was expanded under President Reagan to span an entire month. In the years since the observance was signed into law, the U.S. Latinx population has continued to flourish.
Today, there are approximately 60 million Hispanic Americans in the United States, comprising nearly one-fifth of the national population. This growth represents one of the most dramatic and important demographic trends in our history.
And yet, most Latinx Americans still experience a substandard quality of life compared to their white counterparts.
For instance, Latinx adults are almost twice as likely to receive a diabetes diagnosis compared to white adults and are nearly 50 percent more likely to die from the condition. Latinx youth are nearly twice as likely to suffer from childhood obesity than are white children and adolescents, while adults are 20 percent more likely to be overweight. Latinx Americans are also twice as likely to live in poverty compared to white Americans and report higher unemployment rates.
In the wake of COVID-19, these disparities have only grown more apparent. Latinx Americans are almost 5 times more likely than white Americans to be hospitalized after contracting the virus and account for nearly a third of all COVID-19 deaths when using weighted population distributions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And during the worst of the outbreak, Latinx Americans reported an unemployment rate of 18.5 percent.
Change cannot happen without action — rather, it requires a coordinated effort on behalf of lawmakers and the current administration. Unfortunately, President Trump has recently moved forward with several reforms that will impede progress.
One such reform is the administration’s “foreign reference pricing” executive order, which the president signed earlier this month.
The order caps the cost of certain prescription drugs by tying Medicare reimbursements to prices paid for the same medications in a select group of other developed nations — many of which have government-run health systems that set artificially low prices for medicines. In doing so, the order effectively imports foreign price controls, something proven to decrease the availability of pharmaceuticals that so many Latinx Americans rely upon to manage their health.
In addition, the nations after which the pricing scheme is modeled all have significantly smaller Hispanic populations than that of the United States. President Trump fails to recognize that importing healthcare models from countries with miniscule Hispanic populations does our own nation’s Latinx community a disservice.
As we continue to celebrate Latinx Americans this month, it is imperative that we look for ways to put an end to the disparities that plague this community. That means ensuring all Americans can live happy, healthy, prosperous lives. And to that we say ¡A la Buena Salud! — To Good Health!