A lot of things are uncertain right now, but one thing holds true: health care matters, now more than ever.
No matter who you are or where you live, we are living through unsettling times. Many of us don’t know what the next days, weeks, and even months hold, and there are large segments of Nevada’s population that are disproportionately vulnerable to both the fallout and the potential spread of COVID-19, including our state’s Latinx and undocumented communities due to systemic inequalities in our health care system.
But there is something we all should, and can, do while we’re stuck at home: fill out the 2020 Census. The information gathered by the Census is used to help allocate community resources, including the building of health care centers and funding for their services.
If there is one thing that we are learning from the current pandemic, it’s that affordable, accessible health care, whether it’s through Medicaid and Medicare or through social safety net providers, is absolutely vital to the health and well-being of our communities.
I know this first hand because I’m a Promotora de Salud with Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. I work every day with the Latinx community in Las Vegas to ensure that they’re learning how to take care of their sexual and reproductive health.
Promotores de Salud bridge the gap between the community and health providers. From giving demonstrations on how to put on an internal condom at a community event, to offering platicas about sexual health, to providing financial help for Planned Parenthood services, Promotores make certain that community members receive care no matter what, whether at our health centers or through other community resources.
When I began volunteering for the Promotores de Salud program at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, I was almost 18 years old. But it wasn’t until I officially became an employee that I realized how few preventive measures Latinx folks take when it comes to taking care of themselves. With each interaction, I realized that the issue went beyond cultural values. My community wants to seek medical help, they just didn’t know who it was safe to ask or which clinic was willing to work with them.
Our health care system has not taken into consideration the barriers that our Latinx community faces. Procedures are not being properly explained to Latinx patients in their native tongue which results in a ripple effect of confusion, mistrust, or not following up with treatment. This ultimately leads to chronic illness and financial burdens that could have been resolved through preventive care.
The 2020 Census is the first step to advocating for what our Latinx community needs: restored access to health care and trust in health care providers. This is our opportunity to make ourselves counted, to demand that our community deserves to be represented and heard. Not only will we be able to receive more funds for existing organizations and programs, but we will be able to take initiative in creating new ones to accommodate ALL needs of the Latinx community.
We know that undocumented immigrants or mixed-status families are often afraid to seek medical help and safety net providers are often many people’s first or only experience with health care. Getting a complete count is absolutely vital to ensuring that we are taken care of, always.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 is going to have a profound effect on our country, but by filling out the census, we will be doing our part to ensure that our communities are better provided for than they have been in the past.