by Maitri Pamo
Catarina Rivera has been exploring obesity among Latinos. Her articles have inspired questions: what happens to obese people? How do they address the health consequences of obesity? Due to the correlation between poverty and obesity, and the worrisome statistic that 25.3% of Latinos were reported as living below the poverty level as of 2009, it is important to examine this problem within a broad socio-economic context.
The health consequences of obesity are numerous and can be chronic or catastrophically acute; they include but are not limited to cardio-vascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, osteo-arthritis, and respiratory diseases. These conditions require extensive monitoring and treatment, but for 32.4% of us who do not have access to health insurance, often as a consequence of poverty, it is extremely challenging if not impossible to receive proper health care to address the often-devastating results of the poverty-obesity dilemma, which contribute to higher mortality within the community.
Those who suffer from lack of coverage bear the financial burden of seeking any preventative health care. These individuals are also those who, due to their socio-economic class, must often rely on cheap, calorie-dense but nutritiously poor food. They are often financially unable to provide themselves or their families with the proper medical attention that could potentially mitigate the long-term effects of all diseases, including those related to obesity.
The result is a higher rate of potentially preventable hospitalizations of Latinos who do not seek treatment until their symptoms are so advanced that hospitalization is required. The use of emergency room visits instead of planned, managed health care and subsequent preventable hospitalizations are a tremendous drain of resources and taxes. It is easy to extrapolate how individuals seeking to scapegoat Latinos can and do utilize this information as proof that Latinos are bankrupting the system and taking advantage of US health care and taxpayers. However, the root causes of poverty that contribute to the admittedly large drain on public resources are seldom addressed by the individuals who use the statistics to support their often racist and classist agendas.
The working poor who do not enjoy the protection of comprehensive health care are victims of a system that relies heavily on employers to provide coverage. This system presents a formidable obstacle for people who work, for example, in service industry jobs or have multiple part-time jobs that do not offer insurance. It is precisely these families who have the most to gain from comprehensive health care reform. Alternatively, without effective means of providing all citizens with affordable options to look after themselves, a significant percentage of our population may continue to die for a donut.
Contributor, Maitri Pamo.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.