MANATEE — No insurance. No transportation. Little or no income.
Those are some of the factors that often lead to increased health risks for America’s Latino population, according to health professionals at a local event Saturday to encourage wellness and create awareness in low-income areas.
A wide range of services were offered: HIV and sexually transmitted disease testing, flu shots, immunizations, blood pressure checks and screening for diabetes.
“We consider them an at-risk population. They don’t have access to services — especially the farm workers. ... They are usually deprived of services. There’s a lack of transportation, a lack of insurance and a language barrier. Events like this give them an opportunity,” said Luz Corcuera, program director for Healthy Start Coalition of Manatee County.
This is the second year for the health fair sponsored by Healthy Start and Manatee County Health Department and funded by private donations.
Salome Lopez, of Bradenton, stood with a stroller near her two children at Pride Park Recreational Facility, 815 63rd Ave. E.
Through an interpreter, she said events like this make it possible for her to receive some form of preventive health care for her family.
Both Lopez and her husband are currently unemployed. She said they can’t afford annual exams. She was tested for HIV and had a blood pressure screening.
The health fair is sometimes the only health care some families receive each year, Corcuera said.
Manatee’s population is made up of about 14 percent Latinos, she said, adding that many of those people are at-risk.
In 2002, the gap for flu vaccinations for adults 65 years old or older was 70.3 percent for whites and 46.7 percent for Latinos, according to the Center for Disease Control. At the fair, nurses ran out of flu shots.
Latinos are also considered to be at higher risk for contracting HIV/AIDS, diabetes and asthma, according to the CDC. This group comprised 17 percent of all new HIV infections in the United States in 2006.
On Saturday, about 30 people kept chairs filled outside a Manatee County Health Department mobile unit waiting to get tested.
Carmen Rojas, a records technician for vital statistics, worked as an interpreter Saturday.
“Many can’t afford to go to the doctor. Most of these people come from another country and many don’t know what services exist,” she said.
The fair also had information for new mothers to encourage breastfeeding and information on WIC, a special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children that provides federal grants to states.
The program recently introduced vouchers to include fruits and vegetables this month.
Better eating habits can curtail health issues later on in life, according to health professionals. But for many Latinos on low incomes, the money sometimes isn’t there to eat healthy.
“You can get a hamburger for 49 cents versus fresh fruit and vegetables that cost a couple of dollars,” said Elvira Saez, who also worked as an interpreter Saturday.
“A lot of them lack fresh vegetables in their diet and when you ask, ‘Why?’ They say they can’t afford it.”