The Latino Policy Institute, a project of the Hispanic Health Council, held its first Latino Health Summit at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work in West Hartford, CT on Friday, November 21. The School was a sponsor of the Summit. The event was attended by more than 150 professionals from public and private organizations across many disciplines including health, social service and education. An article in the New York Times, Finding a Voice to Match the Pressing Medical Needs of Hispanics, further addresses the Summit and Latino health issues.

The Latino Health Summit was the first step in creating a powerful network of Latino voices that, lifted as one, can change the system and improve the lives of Latino parents, partners, sisters, brothers and children.

The Summit addressed six health conditions of particular concern to Latino communities and looked at each as a bellwether of one or more underlying social determinants of health affecting Latinos in Connecticut. The focus issues that the Latino community selected as most important to them are: access to care; asthma; cancer; depression; HIV/AIDS and STDS; and obesity. These issues were presented by a panel of professional experts. Through these issues, opportunities for policy change were identified and a pledge to implement change was made. At the end of the day, there was an action agenda for Latino health priorities and an action network of engaged and energetic advocates ready to start making change happen.

The Latino Policy Institute welcomed Elena Rios, M.D., MSPH, a nationally recognized expert on health disparities and a champion of improving the health of Latinos, as keynote speaker for the Latino Health Summit. Dr. Elena Rios is President and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association. Rios delivered a speech to delegates at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. “At some point in our lives, we all face health care problems,” Rios said, “But the deck is stacked against some of us.”

Catherine Medina, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Puerto Rican/Latino/a Studies at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, served as a panelist addressing the focus issue of HIV/AIDS/STDS.