April is Minority Health Month—a time for us to think about the fact that people of different races and ethnicities experience different health outcomes. This is a real issue in Colorado, where, for example, Latino infants are 70% more likely to die than white infants and Latino people are 62% more likely to die from diabetes than white people.
Immigration laws can have a big impact on the health of people of color in Colorado. In the past, a pregnant woman could not be deported. However, that rule was recently changed and now a pregnant woman can be arrested and deported from the U.S. Additionally, if immigrants are legally present in the U.S. with VISAs, they cannot renew their VISA if their children (who are U.S. citizens) use social services like Medicaid or Food Stamps.
Policy changes like these force families to make impossible decisions. As a parent, how can you choose between getting your children food and getting yourself deported? Or, if you are pregnant, would you want to seek prenatal care if you knew that it would lead to arrest and deportation?
These policy changes are preventing families from applying for programs like Medicaid or Food Stamps. It is also preventing them from accessing medical care for their unborn children. They live in fear of the government and deportation; they don’t want to give their name and their addresses.
It is no surprise that Latinos have experienced the largest increases in chronic stress since President Trump was elected. High levels of stress increase the chances of a slew of health problems including diabetes, heart conditions, obesity, and even infant mortality.
At Tri-County Health Network, we are working to build health equity in our region. Health equity means that race and other traits—like living in a rural area, income, or educational level—do not affect health. While we are making strides at improving health equity, race, ethnicity, and income are still linked to health outcomes. If you are white and wealthy, on average, you’re going to have the best health outcomes of anyone in the country.
We hope you join Tri-County Health Network during Minority Health Month in our fight for health equity. None of our neighbors should be forced to choose between the food, housing, and healthcare they need and the people and country they love. Call your Senators and Representatives and tell them that you hope they will take the steps needed to protect the health of all Coloradoans, especially people of color, during Minority Health Month.
By Kody Gerkin, Community Outreach Manager