Municipality of Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services. Fotos/Photos: Lauren Horn.
Health Your Health Matters Clinical services AT the muni DHHS BY Dayra Valades
In the United States as of 2015, there were nearly 49 million people living with food insecurity, which means they do not have consistent access to food. Latino families are overrepresented in this segment of the population, experiencing some of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country. This is seen in Alaska also. According to the 2014 census estimate, 4175 Latinos live below the poverty level in the state, or 9.6 percent of the total estimated population. This precarious existence has health consequences, especially for young children. But fortunately, we are not alone when it comes time to deal with them.
In Anchorage, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) operates the Women, Infants and Children Nutrition program (WIC). This program is best known for supplemental vouchers for infant formula and healthy food, but it also provides nutrition information, counseling and periodic health screenings for pregnant and breastfeeding women and their children from birth to age of five. WIC is free of charge for those who qualify.
DHHS provides other programs which “safeguard Anchorage public health by preventing, detecting, and treating communicable diseases,” says Natasha Pineda, DHHS Direct Services Division Manager. For instance, DHHS has a Reproductive Health Clinic, which provides blood testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, reproductive exams, counseling and education.
Pineda points out that while this clinic is much less expensive than private ones, they also provide a payment plan if needed, and even a sliding scale fee with documentation of need. “No one would be denied services due to inability to pay,” she emphasizes.
This Clinic provides support services for teens who have recently become parents, which are commonplace within the Latino community. According to the office of adolescent health of the US Department of Health and Human Services, in 2013 there were 716 births to females under 20 years of age in Alaska, of which 259 were non-Hispanic White, and 70 were from Hispanic/Latino females, which accounts for the 10 percent of total births to teenage females in Alaska.
In this same report, we find that in 2013, Alaska ranked first among the 50 states in Chlamydia infections, and it ranked number four in gonorrheal infections. Thus, there are many challenges to meet for the Reproductive Health Clinic of the DHHS.
Pineda also said that among the clinical services provided by the DHHS is the Immunizations and Tuberculosis Control Program. We probably do not think about tuberculosis (TB) as an ongoing illness. But, even though the overall rate of TB in the US declined substantially since 1992, there are still cases of infection to be eradicated. In 2013, Alaska ranked first among all 50 states for its TB rates, which was 9.7 per 100 000 persons, and 21.13 percent of these cases occurred among foreign-born persons.
Natasha Pineda also shared with us that for calendar year 2015, they had a total of 16 425 visits, of which 1 707 (10.4 percent) indicated they were Hispanic (1 108 women and 599 men). This number matches the proportion of the Latino community in the population of Alaska, so we may infer that many Latinos know about these services. Nevertheless, it is important to remind the community that these options are available to take care of our health, and that they are affordable.
PROUDLY POWERED BY SOL DE MEDIANOCHE CO. Sol de Medianoche is a bimonthly publication of the Latino community in Anchorage, Alaska