On November 3, 2016 the UCLA Center for World Health hosted a panel of medical experts who discussed the unique health care challenges facing the Latino population, both domestically and abroad. The panel featured UCLA faculty members Dr. Karin Nielsen, Dr. Patrick Dowling, and Dr. Christopher Tymchuk, as well as Nicaraguan guest panelist, Dr. Roberto Guillen. The panel, as well as the subsequent discussion forum with event attendees, offered insight into the sustainable development of health system infrastructure in Latin America.
70% of the countries of the world now have life expectancies greater than 70 years of age for both men and women. This shift in life expectancy holds true for much of Latin America, where the net effect of this gain is an increase in the needs for health services. As people live longer, expertise in the prevention, treatment, and management of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic diseases is necessary.
In Latin America, the demand for health care services is too often unmet. According to Dr. Tymchuk, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, “the gap between increasing disease rate and the underdeveloped health system in Latin America calls for our attention.”
The panelists discussed their engagement in the region, highlighting numerous educational, clinical, and research initiatives that seek to improve health care provision and quality of care in the area. Dr. Nielsen, clinical professor of pediatrics at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, leads a study in Brazil that aims to lower the rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The study team works with nine institutions throughout Brazil to develop and enhance laboratories, as well as train local personnel in lab procedure. The goal of such efforts is to stimulate local medical infrastructure development in a sustainable manner, by working closely with local medical professionals and staff.
The panel also addressed health care challenges that Latino populations face in the United States. Language barriers and a lack of culturally-sensitive care often affect the quality of health services received by Latin Americans living in the U.S., explained Dr. Patrick Dowling, Chair of the UCLA Department of Family Medicine. Programs such as UCLA’s International Medical Graduate (IMG) Program attempt to address this issue by offering medical training in both English and Spanish, with the goal of increasing the number of bilingual and bicultural Latin American physicians practicing in the United States.
The event marked the launch of the Center’s Latin America Initiative, which aims to improve health care infrastructure in Latin America by investing in and training Latin American medical professionals. Dr. Jorge Lazareff, Director of the Initiative, says that “what we want to do is horizontal and sustainable. We want to invest in people in Latin America itself.”
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