In April 2002, the NCIOM, in partnership with El Pueblo, a statewide policy and advocacy organization, convened the Latino Health Task Force to study and address Latino health issues in North Carolina. Latinos comprise the most rapidly growing minority in our state: Between 1990 and 2000, this segment of the population grew by nearly 400%. Though they are 5% of our population and contribute significantly to North Carolina’s economy, Latinos are medically underserved.
Previous studies have shown that the most common barriers to health care access are language barriers, lack of health insurance coverage, and lack of transportation. The Latino Health Task Force was charged with examining these and other barriers and with exploring comprehensive public policy options to overcome the barriers.
The objectives of the task force were:
1. To develop a consensus on the major health problems facing the Latino community. The task force studied, among other things, access to publicly-funded health services (including public health, community and migrant health centers, and area mental health programs), public and private health insurance coverage, cultural and language barriers, dental services, occupational health issues, and specific health problems that disproportionately impact Latinos.
2. To identify whether regional variations exist in the capacity of local communities to address Latino health issues.
3. To identify and disseminate “best practices” —local, statewide, or national initiatives that have been successful in improving health for Latinos.
4. To identify public and private initiatives that can be undertaken to address these concerns.