SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- South Bay organizations that help bridge health barriers Latinos face, are excited about a new health study the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved.
By 2050, the Latino community will be the largest ethnic group in Santa Clara County.
The pandemic only amplified health inequities. Now, the county is moving forward with a new health study of the Latino and Hispanic communities.
CEO of Gardner Family Health Network, Reymundo Espinoza says he's hopeful to create a unified strategy.
"Hope it doesn't just stop at the assessment part because that's always been the challenge right," Espinoza said.
In 2021, Gardner Health Services partnered with the county to bring the first walk-up vaccination site in Santa Clara County. They currently serve more than 46,000 patients within their network of health clinics - 70% are Latinos.
"I mean 90% of our patients are at a 150% of poverty - that's a family of four making $45,000 a year. So when you're in that situation, you have to make choices between healthcare, transportation and housing," Espinoza said.
Espinoza said requests for diabetes care and mental health services have skyrocketed.
"Pre-COVID, we were running around 85% and then when the pandemic hit, it went up to 100," Espinoza said.
He said their job is to eliminate the financial barriers and try to make them less challenging.
The nonprofit organization Latinas Contra Cancer was receiving clients before the pandemic who lost their housing or their employment because of a cancer diagnosis.
Darcie Green, the executive director, said the pandemic only added an extra layer to the problem. She's excited for this health assessment.
"As a county, it's not okay for us to expect that someone would become unhoused or unable to feed themselves because of a cancer diagnosis. Maybe an outcome of this needs assessment for our community can be looking into taking a deeper dive into what are people challenged with and what are they facing when just trying to prioritize their health," Green said.
She said it takes courageous policy making to make change.
"I believe the way we do this is together," Green said.
The Public Health Department says this new health study will be gathering data in different phases.
Angelica Diaz is the Health Communities Branch Director for the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.
"I think we have the greatest impact towards achieving health equity when we ask the right questions ask of the right people. And part of the process will be to identify and address different health conditions or health outcomes. Part of that will be prioritizing the solutions or specific actions we can take as a county to improve the health outcomes. That may be increasing resources and investment where it's most needed," Diaz said.
The report will be due by spring of next year with suggestions on policy changes.
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