- Michael Yudell
Health disparities are differences in health outcomes as a result of demographic, social, or environmental attributes. In the Latino community, cultural and linguistic barriers can compound disparities and lead to unfavorable and unhealthy outcomes. Poverty also exacerbates health issues, creating inequities in health-care access and treatment. At Congreso de Latinos Unidos, a multiservice non-profit organization that focuses on well-being of Philadelphia's Latino community, we see the impact of disparities in health every day.
For example, the 19133 zip code, where the majority of Congreso's clients reside, had the highest percentage of people in poverty (56.4%) in 2011–nearly double the citywide rate (28.4%), which itself was the highest recorded in Philadelphia in years.
The region surrounding the 19133 zip code—located in North Philadelphia east of Broad Street—is home to the vast majority of the city's Latino community. In spite of the multiple challenges it faces, this vibrant community is civically engaged, rich in arts and culture, and includes committed businesses. Having worked here for numerous years, I am often struck by how often it is mentioned in the news because of its high crime rates and because it has the highest high school drop out rate in the city. Yet few outsiders really know this community—either its beauty or its challenges.
A democracy is only as strong as its people. We need to be aware of health disparities in our nation, and especially in our city, and address them. Healthy communities may be more economically productive but we should not fail to notice the human costs associated with some of the challenges faced in places like 19133.
Consider these statistics:
As these statistics demonstrate, addressing the health needs of all Philadelphians is critical to the future and the economic health of our city. The biggest challenge may simply be becoming aware of the major racial and ethnic disparities in the city and other communites throughout the region. Once aware, how does one not get involved in trying to change them?