President's Blog

May 2024 Advocacy Activities

May 9, 2024 -  NHMA and NHHF were highlighted as I spoke at several organizations' events in Washington, DC this month :

National Minority Quality Forum 2024 Leadership Summit -  Discussed our programs' successful collaborations with national and local organizations - in the case of NHMA with HIV, Infectious Disease and Vaccination education and in the case of NHHF with Public Health Careers and Clinical Trials opportunities for physicians and others. 

National Consumers League Vaccine Confidence Webinar Roundtable - Discussed lessons learned with our NHMA Vaccinate For All and NHHF Rockefeller Mini Grant Program on how to educate Latino families about the importance of vaccines especially about COVID-19, RSV, Influenza.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Health Summit - Discussed Latino health challenges and policy recommendations to elevate health equity for Latino families - especially environmental health policy, SDOH, and Medical Education institutions' satellite programs needed in underserved areas

Two NHHF Webinars -- I am moderating and looking forward to educating our growing audiences about the Latino physician Principal Investigator's lessons learned about clinical trials with pediatric patients and the importance of future changes due to the SCOTUS Decision to delete race/ethnicity from higher education admissions. 

I also attended the AMGEN Policy Summit and the Health Equity and Clinical Trial Conference to learn about current issues of interest to both NHMA and NHHF.  See NHMA Website: and NHHF Website: for more information about our programs and activities.


NHMA and NHHF 30th Anniversary Leadership Summit 

April 25, 2024 -  NHMA and NHHF hosted 275 participants in Washington, DC on April 12 - 13, 2024 to participate in Congressional Visits to advocate for Access to Care by protecting the Affordable Care Act prevention programs and expanding Medicaid and focus on obesity and diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, HIV, tobacco control; and for increasing Latinos in medicine by policies that create new institutions (regional medical schools) and advance diversity programs in STEM, research experience, mentoring and financing medical education (new GME slots, loan repayment). We also cohosted the White House Briefing on the Biden Administration accomplishments that impact health of Latinos and considering a political appointment. We thank the staff and Office of Public Engagement, the White House.

Day 2 was a Summit that started with the story of the history leadeing up to the establishent of NHMA - Dr. David Hayes Bautista provided the context from the 1960s in the U.S. when Latino college students developed their clubs for prehealth students. In Califoria for example the CCM and CHE groups were created across the state. As the leaders became professionals they went to different states. Elena Rios history was announced as an activist and organizer -- started recruiting poor students at Stanford, started the California statewide Chicano/Latino Medical Student Association in 1983, and the NHMA in 1994.  Founders described their roles and challenges to the future: Collaboration, Leaning Latino Culture into Leadership, Enrichment of our NHHF Scholarship to help next generation, Partnership Development.  Participants were assigned to four working sessions that resulted in strategies for NHMA and NHHF next five years:  Increase Latinos in Medicine; Create health communications to other physicians about Latino health; Expand advocacy activities to Federal and State policymakers; and Develop partners to support executive leadership and clinical research training.  We look forward to developing our report with all the ideas that were put forth. 

We ended the 2 days with our Awards Gala -- We honored DaVita and Congresswoman Caraveo as key partners. NHMA honored its Nebraska Chapter and outgoing Board Members Dr. Fernandez and Dr Ramos; NHHF honored its partners with its Hispanic Health Professional Student Scholarship - the national Hispanic organizions representing the nurses, dentists, doctors, pharmacists, pubic health leaders and the PAs. We both honored 40 under 40 health care professionals and finally, I was honored by both NHMA and NHHF Boards for 30 years of service and leadership with a grand portrait and acknowledgements.  We thank all the staff and sponsors and attendees!

NHMA proudly supports the Obesity Bill of Rights Initiative

March 15, 2024 - As a Latina doctor with years advocating for Hispanic health, I know the adverse effects of obesity on our own community.

Latinos face a greater prevalence of obesity and associated comorbidities, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, when compared to the general population.

This issue is complex and multi-faceted. I see it in California where I grew up where genetic predisposition, environmental factors, traditional diets, family dynamics, cultural influences, and socioeconomic factors all contribute to almost 38 % of Latinos considered overweight.

Nationwide, the statistics are alarming. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Hispanic Americans had the second-highest age-adjusted prevalence of obesity, and a staggering 78.8% of Hispanic American women are overweight or obese compared to 64% of non-Hispanic white women.

Furthermore, obesity, particularly within the Latino community, is not merely a health concern. While individuals grappling with obesity are more likely to face high blood pressure, elevated blood fats, diabetes, and LDL cholesterol – all recognized risk factors for heart disease and stroke, Latinos also face disproportionate health care obstacles, including lower rates of health insurance coverage and higher use of emergency care instead of preventative medical access.

But for too long, we’ve limited our options for treatment and put the onus on individuals to eat right and exercise more. Some health professionals, employers, insurers and government agencies even fault and discriminate against overweight people for a so-called “lack of willpower.”

It’s time we start dealing with obesity with the single-mindedness and seriousness that other fatal diseases demand.

That’s why the National Hispanic Medical Association is joining the The National Consumers League and National Council on Aging in an effort by health leaders and obesity specialists to establish a set of rights that will empower people with obesity to demand and receive effective medical treatment when needed. The Obesity Bill of Rights calls for personalized obesity care with culturally sensitive strategies.

These rights include:

The Right to Accurate, Clear, Trusted, and Accessible Information

The Right to Respect.

The Right to Make Treatment Decisions.

The Right to Treatment from Qualified Health Providers.

The Right to Person-Centered Care.

The Right to Accessible Obesity Care and Services from Health Systems.

The Right for Older Adults to Receive Quality Obesity Care.

The Right to Coverage for Treatment.

It’s time we treat obesity as a disease and give doctors and patients the tools and opportunities to utilize all available medical treatment not just to those who can afford it but to all that need it. For many individuals, particularly those with limited financial resources, the high price of these medications is simply unattainable.

This creates a stark inequality in healthcare, where those who can afford the cost are able to receive the necessary treatment while others are left to struggle with the burdens of obesity. By including weight loss medication in coverage, we can level the playing field and provide equal opportunities for all individuals to pursue a healthier lifestyle.

One significant issue that compounds the cost barrier is the fact that Medicare does not cover drugs prescribed for obesity. This is particularly alarming for older adults who transition to Medicare after the age of 65, as they face greater risks of health problems related to obesity.

Without coverage for weight loss medication, these individuals are left with one less tool to combat their obesity-related health issues. It is imperative that we address this gap in coverage and ensure that our seniors have access to the treatments they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

A recent resolution by members of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) is a good start: State Rep. Rafael Anchía (TX), State Rep. Marcelino Quiñonez (AZ) and State Senator Cristina Castro (IL) put forth a resolution that not only calls for eliminating obesity stigmas but also calls for states to update exclusionary language that prevents Medicaid programs from approving the full scope of pharmaceutical options for those suffering from obesity.

In order to effectively combat the obesity epidemic and improve the health outcomes of individuals struggling with weight issues, it is vital that we address the barriers preventing access to weight loss medication and other medical technologies, and let medicine lead the way. The elimination of obesity can give us healthier communities that need less critical and emergency care and which rob many individuals from enjoying a full productive life.

Women's Health is Key to Quality Health Care

March 1, 2024 - As we start Women's History Month this year, the United States faces major challenges from policymakers and lawyers/judges in the court system who are motivated to keep women without reproductive health or choice.  This is demolishing the quality of healthcare movement for a patient-centered, a team approach between patient and physician, culturally-sensitive/language appropriate and respectful, and accessible/affordable/transparent.  By leaving women out of healthcare we are seeing the closing of hospitals (especially rural hospitals), decrease in OB-GYN specialists practicing or applications to the field, and physicians not willing to lose their licenses over policies that go against a physician's oath "do no harm".  We expect to see the loss of female contraception products available in this nation.  Young women must be educated to vote for women's health advocates and to become activists for their generation and rid the system of the anti-women people in the power structure of the United States. In my generation I applaud the activists who believed in women enjoying quality healthcare. 

Vaccination disparities are evident across demographics

February 6, 2024 - As the U.S. undergoes an unusually acute seasonal surge in respiratory illnesses, it’s important to remember that there are ways of staying healthy and avoiding life-threatening complications, which become more common among older individuals and those with already poor health. So let’s look at the vaccination disparities and what they reveal about us.

Who’s Not Getting Vaccinated?

Uninsured individuals are having a tougher time getting vaccines. Also, older adults in urban and suburban areas seem to be on top of their vaccination game compared to those in rural areas. Interestingly, non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Asian adults are leading the way in influenza vaccination.

Who’s at Risk?

COVID-19, Flu, and RSV are causing concern, especially for Hispanic American adults at higher risk. They're 20% less likely than others to have received the pneumococcal vaccine. And in rural areas, around 20.5% of adults are still not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Latinos and Vaccines

Latinos in the U.S. have consistently low vaccination rates, covering diseases like flu, polio, HPV, hepatitis, and, of course, COVID-19. This not only increases disease risks but also strains healthcare systems.

 Read Full Article


NHMA/NHHF 30th Anniversary Leadership Summit

!n 1994, with doctors I met while working at the White House in 1993, especially Mark Diaz (CA), Conchita Paz (NM), Ciro Sumaya (TX) and our lawyer and consultants, we developed 2 organizations: the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) and the NHMA Foundation with Bylaws and Boards of Directors. We decided to start a volunteer effort (I worked at HHS Office on Women's Health) and received support from HRSA Administrator, Dr. Ciro Sumaya and OMH Director and Latino Advisor (Guadalupe Pacheco) to start an advisory meeting with HRSA on health workforce diversity, a national advisory committee, 5 regional meetings and 2 national conferences from 1995 - 1998.Then we received our first $1M Government Funding to start Leadership training of physicians, residents and medical students. Thanks to Jo Ivey Boufford and Susana Morales of NY to serving as core faculty...I left HHS to work part-time with NHMA/NHHF. 

We changed the Foundation name to the National Hispanic Health Foundation (NHHF) when we decided to start a National Hispanic Health Professional Student Scholarship and the with an earmark from Congresswoman Hilda Solis with our networks sharing of Latino health information/calendar--- we formalized the Council of Medical Societies in 2005  and the National Hispanic Health Professional Leadership Network in 2004.

We think it is the right time now to reimagine our priority functions with your input and those who are interested in the future of our organizations - NHMA and NHHF and you over the next 5 years.

We invite you to our 30th Anniversary Leadership Summit -- Friday April 12 - Capitol Hill visits, meetings, White House Briefing (planned) and Reception; Saturday April 13 - Roundtables to develop strategies to improve our efforts in Medical Education/Health Workforce, Policy, Media, Research and Leadership Development ----at the national, state and local levels over the next 5-10 years as Latinos become 25% of the US population; and a Gala. Our expert speakers include Joe Greer, MD; Fernando Mendoza, MD (med ed), Mauricio Gonzalez, MD, Cesar Padilla, MD, (media influencers), Congressmembers (invited) and Leo Seoane, MD (advocacy) and more --- as well as our founders above. We end the event with a Gala.

We need to collaborate with emerging leaders to strengthen our organizations with sustainable efforts that can optimize our impact in the nation --- hope to see you: Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill Washington DC, April 12-13, 2024 – go to to register today!


NHMA/NHHF Major Advocacy Efforts 2023

January 2, 2024 - We have had a busy year with Congressional and HHS and White House meetings and advocacy to add the Hispanic-lens to heath care policy. Here is just a few priorities we have discussed and supported this past year and will continue to focus on in 2024:

1. Medical Education diversity policy to increase services in shortage areas - did not see the new funding for minority physicians; nor Costa/Kaine bill to build new medical schools - especially the HSI school we need ( and Resolution for Natl Latino Physician Day) - Congressional Briefing - July
2. Alternative Obesity medicines (AOM) coverage by Medicare for non Federal insured — already covered by VA, Federal Employee Insurance
3. Nutrition - quality guidelines, support for WiC, SNAP, more education for Latino signup; White House Nutrition Conference:Food is Medicine
4. Clinical Trial diversity - new support for mentors and research programs outreach for Latino physicians/ others to build community research (NHHF)
5. Nominations for HHS positions/ commissions and political appointments ( NHHF HHS MOU)
6. ARPA-H - increased Latino researcher support (NHHF becomes member)
7. Asthma, CVD, Diabetes, Maternal Health, Vaccines, Long Covid, Behavioral Health, Immigrant Health —And support Medicaid and Medicare expansion!  and more...

Partner with us to continue healthcare policy development 2024!


The National Latino/a Physician Day

October 1, 2023 - The number of Latino/a physicians, according to the AAMC, is about 7 percent despite the Latino/a population being 64 million or 19 percent of the U.S. population in 2022, according to the U.S. Census. NHMA is proud to have advocated for the bipartisan Senate and Congress Resolutions that were introduced recognizing Oct. 1st as National Latino/a Physician Day. We are especially proud that two of the Congressmembers are Latino physicians - Congressman Raul Ruiz of CA and Congresswoman Yadira Caraveo.  We will continue to advocate for the approval by both houses of these resolutions.

NHMA president and ceo, Elena Rios, MD was a speaker at the Stanford Medical School celebration along with the founders of the event, Cesar Padilla, MD and Michael Galvez, MD, Assemblyman Arambula, LMSA executive director JP Sanchez, MD, and Stanford Medical School dean Minor, and others.  We celebrate with Latino/a  physicians and medical students who participated through social media and local events across the country.


The First HHS Hispanic Health Summit

September 26, 2023 - NHMA/NHHF  president and ceo was presented with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  for both NHMA (to develop Hispanic pipeline for medical school) and the National Hispanic Health Foundation (to support Hispanic leadership development for public health workforce, especially to increase Hispanics at HHS and county and state agencies and Hispanic principal investigators/patients in clinical research) through increased collaboration and information exchange with the HHS agencies and offices.  The Hispanic Health Summit that brought together leaders from health care and community organizations who were interested in learning about HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra's priorities including maternal health, access to care especially Medicaid enrollment, and behavioral health programs to fight substance abuse, among other issues.  We appreciated the NHMA/NHHF Board members and staff who joined me at this great event - Claudia Zamora, Yvonne Rodriguez, Dr. Sylvia Preciado and NHHF Program Director Guadalupe Pacheco and our interns who learned a lot from this historic event. (see HHS videos)

The Rate of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Cases Among Latine Infants

September 14, 2023 - The number of Latine infants with RSV is considerably higher than the number of white infants with the respiratory illness. RSV is a common respiratory virus that affects infants and older adults more severely. While most people only experience symptoms similar to a common cold and recover within 1-2 weeks, RSV can lead to pneumonia or bronchitis in children under 1 year old.

 Common symptoms of RSV include a runny nose, a decrease in appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever, and wheezing. However, in young infants, you may only see irritability or breathing difficulties. Each year in the United States, an estimated 58,000-80,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized due to RSV infection and about 6,000-10,000 older adults die of RSV.
Read Full Article


NHMA Congressional Briefing on How to Increase Latinos in Medical School

August 14, 2023 - As we reflect on the Supreme Court decision to stop higher education race-based admissions, here are key policies and programs that were discussed at our 2023 Congressional Briefing in July:

Congressman Raul Ruiz discussed the need to continue working with Congressmembers as we have been on the ned for policies to expand opportunities for students to be ore prepared to move from high school to college, from college to graduate school. He thanked us for our advocacy for his legislation to change Hispanic funding from education to build mentoring and counseling for medical school admissions. 

HRSA Administrator Johnson discussed the need for continued support of the diversity programs for underrepresented students (HCOP, COE, scholarships) and support of the new initiative at HRSA, if funded by Congress, to build innovative pathways to medicine and other health professions that are grounded in underserved areas in the country - first new program started since the 1980s.

AAMC Diversity champion Norma Poll Hunter reported that there is a reimagining happening at the AAMC to enhance the holistic admissions to medical school that look at applicants beyond grades and test scores and to better train admissions committees members to continue to have diversity in their schools.

National Education Association executive reported the higher education leaders also coming up with support for our Hispanic students to increase their numbers in colleges. The White House Hispanic Education office is key to hear your ideas. 

Lastly, I focused on showcasing the NHMA College Health Scholars Program, funded by HHS Office of Minority Health from 2017-2022, which successfully reached 2000 participants - college students and mentors from medical students and physicians and others-- and shared the importance of mentoring to prepare more Hispanics to apply to medical school. We worked with several partners in LA : GMiS, CDU, UCLA, USC, UCR, Stanford and in San Antonio: Incarnate Word University, UT Health San Antonio and in DC: recruiters from across the nation. NHMA to continue the CHSP with mentoring of college students who join NHMA as members this Academic Year, September to June - who will have access to our webinars, discussion prompts, and personal mentoring. For more information: and sign-up now.  We need to work together - nonprofits, institutions, government to increase Latino physicians critically needed in our communities.


NHMA Applauds Reintroduction of the Treat & Reduce Obesity Act

July 20, 2023 - The National Hispanic Medical Association applauds U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Representatives Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) and Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) for reintroducing the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act. This bill is a critical first step to address our country’s escalating obesity epidemic and its disproportionate impact on Hispanic communities.

Our current healthcare policies deny millions from accessing the care they need to treat this chronic, deadly disease — perpetuating health inequities and preserving roots of systemic racism that have put access to health care out of reach for millions.

The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act is vital to begin modernizing an outdated statutory restriction in Medicare policy to ensure that we are removing barriers to care and treatment for communities disproportionately shouldering the burden of this disease. We urge the Senate and House to pass this legislation without delay." 

US Supreme Court Decision to Stop Race-based Admissions to Higher Education

June 29, 2023

The National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) condemns the U.S. Supreme Court decision basd on the cases against Harvard College and the University of North Carolina striking down race-based admissions to all colleges and universities across the country.

This ruling against affirmative action rolls back decades of precedent to the 1950's era of Brown v. Board of Education.

Our nation's fuure depends on racial equity and diversity in higher education to achieve upward mobility for our families and greater prosperity among our multiculural communities that leads to a thriving economy.

We call upon governmem and philanthropy to commit long-term financial investment to community-based organizations to develop innovative strategies that will continue to prepare students for the application process that will support diversity in higher education.

Gun Safety Legislation Needed in Congress

May 25, 2022

Yesterday's horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas represents our government's continued failure to act against gun violence. The National Hispanic Medical Association grieves the loss of 22 innocent lives in Uvalde, Texas - a community that is 83.5% Hispanic. As a key representative of Hispanic interests and well-being, NHMA is devastated by this senseless and preventable loss of life. The incessant waves of gun violence in our country will not cease until policy-makers pass gun safety legislation to protect our society. NHMA calls upon policy-makers n Texas and the U.S. Congress to set aside personal interests and carry out the long-overdue work needed to protect their constituents. 

Women's Reproductive Health Advocacy Needed NOW!

May 3, 2022

The NHMA Board of Directors have called for advocacy for women's choice for healthcare including abortion, given the threat of the Supreme Court's leak of an impending decision to overturn the Roe Law in October. We have sent statements to Congress to advocate for policies to allow reproductive health including abortion for all women who want it in the U.S.  We have also supported the Women’s Health Protection Act (S.4132) that is being debated this week in the Senate.

The majority of Latinos, like the majority of the population, believe that the decision to have an abortion should be left to a person in consultation with their family, their health care provider, and their faith. Latinos in this country are very supportive of access to reproductive health care, including safe, legal abortion. According to a poll commissioned by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, 67 percent of Latino voters do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, and 82 percent agree with people making their own decisions on the issue without political interference.

We work in partnership with Planned Parenthood and others and urge you all to get involved in the #bansOffOurBodies campaign.  For more information go to

  • Let’s be clear: Abortion is still legal. As of today, it remains your constitutional right. 
  • Everyone — no matter where you live or how much money you make — deserves access to essential health care, free of barriers or political roadblocks. 
    • o While Roe must be protected, it has never been enough on its own to guarantee access for millions of people across the country. 
  • Despite significant gains made by the Affordable Care Act, Latinos are still the group with the highest uninsurance rate in the US. 
  • Language and cultural barriers and lack of access to preventive care, as well as immigration status,  affect the type and the frequency of care Latinos receive. 
  • Money, transportation, and time — to see a provider, as well as a lack of health insurance, a shortage of health providers in underserved areas, keep many Latinos from getting the care they need. 

 Campaign Hashtags:  #BansOffOurBodies; Handles to Tag:  @Latinos4PP

Rockefeller Partnership to Increase Vaccine Uptake in Houston, Texas

February 11, 2022

It is now widely understood that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted Latinos in the U.S., resulting in higher risk of infection, hospitalization, and death than their white counterparts. Unfortunately, this extends to Hispanic children as well. In fact, a new study by the CDC found that Hispanic children were eight times more likely than white children to be hospitalized because of COVID-19 . Expanding vaccination rates among Latino children and families is crucial if we want to ensure that this already vulnerable population can vigorously overcome the virus.

Read Full Article


The Surgeon General's Call for Mental Health of Youth Focus

February 10, 2022

In a recent Surgeon General Report and at a Senate Committee Hearing this week, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD calls on policymakers and advocates to consider how COVID-19 has exasperated the emotions of children, especially in underserved communities. We agree with his major recommendations to 1. increase awareness of the mental health needs of children; 2. support mental health programs in primary care practices and in schools; 3. increase the mental health workforce including clinical psychologists and psychiatrists and recovery counselors; 4. educate our Latino and other communities about the impact of counseling and how to access mental health services.  We call on our partners to join us this year in our Annual Conference in March, COVID-19 briefing in April and a Policy Summit later this year to develop mental health policy recommendations especially for our communities. 

Read Full Article


The burden of obesity weighs on all of us Hispanics - Univision


Published: December 13, 2021 

In a country of over 60 million Hispanics, the CDC reports approximately 44.8% of Hispanic adults in the U.S. live with obesity, the second-highest when compared to other ethnic or racial minority groups.
Read Full Article

Addressing Obesity in Adults

December 15, 2021

As the end of year approaches and we make our resolutions for the new year, it’s important to focus on making healthier lifestyles choices. We know that taking care of your body through exercise and healthy eating can seriously stop preventable diseases like obesity.

Obesity affects nearly 40% of adult Americans and is a major health epidemic across the nation. This condition is associated with a host of other health conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. These diseases can be debilitating and have severe consequences on both individuals and their families. Obesity also makes individuals more susceptible to severe complications from COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals with obesity may have triple the risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19.

Obesity is more likely to affect individuals of certain ethnic and racial backgrounds, including Hispanics. Currently, 44.8% of Hispanic adults living in the US are considered obese. Obesity is a major contributor to some of the top causes of death in the United States for Hispanics. Although the exact causes of these disparities are not yet clear, it is believed that unequal access to healthy food, health care, and safe spaces to exercise are significant contributors. This unequal access contributes to poorer health outcomes for Hispanics.

The National Hispanic Medical Association has been researching ways to raise awareness of this issue and support initiatives that combat the obesity epidemic. As a result, NHMA has partnered with Novo Nordisk to increase the awareness of obesity as a disease and improve diagnostics and treatments by encouraging the sharing of information. NHMA also joined the Obesity Care Advocacy Network (OCAN) which works to change the approach to combatting obesity through legislation, regulation, and communication. As a part of OCAN, NHMA actively monitors legislation that could improve obesity outcomes.

One piece of legislation is S. 596, the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act of 2021. This bill provides coverage two obesity treatments: intensive behavioral therapy and Medicare Pard D coverage of obesity medication. Behavioral therapy, which involves working with a therapist to make lifestyle changes, is considered a highly effective treatment for obesity. Physicians may recommend that these lifestyle changes be combined with medications to make treatment more effective for an individual.

NHMA, through its robust network of advocates and providers, remains committed to combatting health disparities and improving the lives of Hispanics across the United States.

The Epidemic of Childhood Obesity

December 7, 2021

Childhood obesity is currently considered an epidemic in the United States, affecting over 19% of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years. Among Hispanic children, the percentage is even higher, affecting over 25% of children and adolescents prior to the COVID-19 pandemic1. The fact that it disproportionally effects minority children, including Hispanic and Latino children, presents a major obstacle in achieving health equity. Addressing this epidemic in children, particularly those most vulnerable, is necessary to provide a healthier future for all Americans.

Childhood obesity has negative consequences for both physical and psychological health. Obesity can lead to issues such as diabetes, sleep apnea, joint problems, and cardiovascular disease2. Children who are obese are more likely to become obese adults, increasing their risk of serious health conditions later in life. Although the physical effects of childhood obesity are cause for concern, the psychological effects are just as detrimental to a child’s growth and development. Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to experience depression and low self-esteem, which interferes with their quality of life and academic success3.

The COVID-19 pandemic has widened the disparity obesity rates, particularly in minority children. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comparing weight gain before and during the pandemic demonstrated a marked increase in body mass index (BMI) in a cohort of individuals aged 2-19 years 4. Another study published in Pediatrics indicated that the increase in obesity rates was more pronounced in individuals who were Hispanic, Black, publicly insured, or lower income 5. In addition to the long term effects of obesity children, like adults, are at a higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19 if they are overweight or obese 6.

The National Hispanic Medical Association has been researching ways to raise awareness of this issue and support initiatives that combat the obesity epidemic in our youth. As a result, NHMA has partnered with Novo Nordisk to increase the awareness of obesity as a disease and improve diagnostics and treatments by encouraging the sharing of information. NHMA also joined the Obesity Care Advocacy Network (OCAN) which works to change the approach to combatting obesity through legislation, regulation, and communication. As a part of OCAN, NHMA actively monitors legislation that could improve obesity outcomes. One piece of legislation is S. 596, the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act of 2021. This bill provides coverage two obesity treatments: intensive behavioral therapy and Medicare Part D coverage of obesity medication.

The effects of childhood obesity are highly detrimental to the health of Hispanics and Latinos. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened outcomes, particularly for vulnerable communities. NHMA, through its robust network of advocates and providers, remains committed to taking action in improving the lives of Hispanic and Latino individuals across the United States.


[1]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood Obesity Facts | Overweight & Obesity | CDC. Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Published 2021. Accessed October 25, 2021.
[2]Sahoo K, Sahoo B, Choudhury AK, Sofi NY, Kumar R, Bhadoria AS. Childhood obesity: causes and consequences. J Fam Med Prim Care. 2015;4(2):187. doi:10.4103/2249-4863.154628
[3]Rankin J, Matthews L, Cobley S, et al. Psychological consequences of childhood obesity: psychiatric comorbidity and prevention. Adolesc Health Med Ther. 2016;7:125. doi:10.2147/AHMT.S101631
[4]Lange SJ. Longitudinal Trends in Body Mass Index Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic Among Persons Aged 2–19 Years — United States, 2018–2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021;70(37):1278-1283. doi:10.15585/MMWR.MM7037A3
[5]Jenssen BP, Kelly MK, Powell M, Bouchelle Z, Mayne SL, Fiks AG. COVID-19 and Changes in Child Obesity. Pediatrics. 2021;147(5). doi:10.1542/PEDS.2021-050123
[6]U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Obesity, Race/Ethnicity, and COVID-19 | Overweight & Obesity | CDC. Published 2021. Accessed October 25, 2021.


Congress joins the Senate in passing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

November 5, 2021

President Biden's $1Trillion infrastructure bill passed along party lines with 19 Republicans supporting the legislation to make the vote 228 to 206. the bill supports improvements to roads, bridges, dams, public transit, rail, ports, airports and pipes to have clean water, decreased emissions for clean energy, broadband, and electric vehicle charging stations across the nation. In addition the safety of transportation for disabled and elderly will be part of the bill. The bill that will create a great many new jobs for our communities. It is anticipated that the Build Back Better bill will be voted on the week of Nov. 15th that will focus on improvements for majority of our nation - a social safety-net bill - free child care, child tax credit expansion, Medicaid expansion for the states/Puerto Rico and territories, caregiving, clean energy and climate justice, funding to minority serving institutions, immigration reform with a 5 year visa program, and a prescription cost cap on a group of most used medications like insulin at $35/month. NHMA supports the bills and continues to advocate for them. 

Future Planning for Healthy Lifestyles in our Communities

October 23, 2021

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, racial/ethnic and working class people need to be vaccinated and the NHMA continues to engage its champions, chapters, the Hispanic Health Professionals Leadership Network, NHMA Council of Medical Societies. in its VaccinateForAll Campaign. NHMA will continue to educate adults to now get their booster vaccines and parents to get their children vaccinated as we enter the next phase of education and outreach with our media team of Latino physicians who are trusted messengers needed in this Campaign. NHMA will continue to advocate for our communities with Congress for more access to health and mental health care with increased subsidies to lower insurance costs, child tax credits and reimbursed dental care, home health care and technology/broadband, and climate justice. Another priority is to increase focus on obesity and diet, maternal health, and the need for data on social determinants of health -- all to decrease chronic stress and illness that plagues our communities.  We need Congress to pass the reconciliation bill and infrastructure bill paid with the tax changes of the rich to create jobs and social supports to transform more Americans to more healthy lifestyles. We need leadership with vision to transform the frontline communities to Build Back Better! 

New Advancements in the Treatment of Chronic Kidney Disease

July 21, 2021

It’s an incredibly exciting time for patients with new treatment options becoming available to them and their providers. It’s crucial that all chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients have access to any innovation that can improve their quality of life.
We’re lucky that patients have more options to manage their CKD, it’s important that every patient have access to new therapeutic innovations.
For decades, patients with CKD in Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) have suffered from disease progression with no meaningful therapeutic advances. Now that new and emerging treatment options are available for these patients, it is critical that they - and the physicians that care for them – have broad access to every tool in the toolbox. The National Hispanic Medical Association looks forward to advocating for more education and prevention to reduce T2D and its complications and improve the health of our communities.
Statistics & Community Needs:

  • Chronic Kidney Disease is a health crisis in the United States. This silent, progressive disease presents a tremendous burden to people living with the condition.  Approximately 34 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and about 90-95% of those have type 2 diabetes (T2D). Approximately 40% of all patients with T2D go on to develop chronic kidney disease.
  • The major causes of CKD (diabetes and hypertension) occur more frequently in non-white patients.  People who are Black or African American are nearly twice as likely to develop T2D compared to non-Hispanic whites. Hispanics are 80% more likely to develop T2D.
  • In accordance with the increased prevalence of those key risk factors, CKD is more common in non-Hispanic Blacks (16.3%) and Hispanics (13.6%) than in non-Hispanic Whites (12.7%) or non-Hispanic Asians (12.9%)

Press Release


NHMA and COVID-19 Vaccinations

Spring 2021

As COVID-19 Vaccines have been distributed to the states, public health departments and expanded by the Biden Administration's planning to mega sites with FEMA, community health centers, retail pharmacies as well as mobile clinics, we have seen the uptake increase over the spring. As we start the summer, it is estimated 70 percent of Americans over 30 did obtain vaccinations but we know the Latinos and other more vulnerable populations need targeted messages abut the importance of protecting themselves and their families from COVID-19 by getting vaccinated. 

NHMA is proud to start its VACCINATE4ALL Campaign, supported by CDC, at its March Annual Conference and welcomes our members and networks and others to join us as Champions - individual ambassadors and organizations to share our resources from our website and then our portal - (Under construction until July) and social media messages. Continue to join us at our Monthly COVID-19 Virtual Briefings on the last Wednesday of the month (started in April 2020) as we hear from experts who care for the Latino community across the U.S. NHMA welcomes speakers for national and Chapter webinars being planned -- NYC was in May and the next Chapter webinar will be California in August. 

NHMA has many joined partners with these efforts. We were invited to join the White House Latino COVID-19 Working Group in February with Voto Latino, NALEO, UnidosUS, Hispanic Federation, LULAC, Mi Famlia Vota, Dewey Square Group and University of Southern California. In addition, at the end of 2020, I was interviewed by the AD Council for the COVID-19 Collective Campaign (It's Up to You) in December for the health professional leaders video section with Dr. Fauci and others, as well as I spoke for webinars of the NIH COVID-19 Partnership Network, the Black Coalition against COVID-19 and continue to meet with new partners. A special monthly training started in March with the Hispanic Health Professionals Leadership Network, NHMA Council of Medical Societies and Latino Health Advocacy Organizations with White House COVID-19 leaders.

Lastly I would like to share our appreciation for our COVID-19 partners through the past year -- CDC, AARP, Pfizer Inc,, Johnson & Johnson, BIO, UNIVISION, Telemundo, Latlino Leaders Magazine, Latina Style Magazine, National Association of Hispanic Publications, Rockefeller Foundation, AMA and invite all to join us as Champions -- go to  And we look forward to the development of a speakers' bureau for Media and our NHMA Leadership Fellowship as well as support for the NHMA Chapters and their local Policy Forums and volunteer participation in local vaccination efforts. It is great to see our Chapters involved - NYC with their health department, Arizona and Philadelphia with vaccine clinics, California with the CMA and Take our Shot/VacunateYa and the Latino Coalition against COVID-19. Let's continue the great work!


Dr. Elena Rios Interview for the COVID-19 Ad Council Campaign

December 17, 2020

Plan for Your Family’s Caregiving Needs

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our communities across the United States with three times the cases and five times the hospitalizations among Hispanics compared to non-Hispanic white persons.

This new disease causes fatigue, fevers, chills, diarrhea and perhaps loss of taste or smell for several days in some persons, but more serious symptoms are lung damage and shortness of breath, clots in the vascular system, heart attacks, and strokes. Some people get so sick that they are admitted to hospitals for medical care treatments, including ventilators to help the lungs breathe.

Caregivers are friends or family members who drive their ill parent to the lab or to visit the doctor or dentist. Caregiving can be buying groceries, getting medicines, helping with finances or doing chores around the house. In the Latino family, we are all family caregivers at one time or another. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in six Hispanic adults are caregivers, 58 percent of whom are women, and over half assist with personal care.[1]

Many of our elders who leave the hospital, or other family members who have long-standing diseases like diabetes and heart disease, need assistance because they cannot feed, dress, or bathe themselves, check their blood sugar, or take their medicines.

The National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) sponsors, with basic information on diseases and prevention of key diseases, and caregiving, including how to pay caregivers.

But let’s stop for a minute to look at some revealing information about caregivers contained in AARP’s Caregiving in the US 2020 report

  • According to Caregiving in the US 2020 report, caregiving remains an activity that occurs among all generations, racial/ethnic groups, income or educational levels, family types, gender identities, and sexual orientations.
  • Three in 5 caregivers are women (61 percent) and 2 in 5 are men.
  • Caregivers reflect the changing demographics of the United States as a whole: White caregivers are the oldest (51.7 years, on average), older than either African American (47.7 years, on average) or Hispanic (43.3 years, on average) caregivers.
  • African American (54 percent) and Hispanic caregivers (49 percent) more often are in high intensity care situations than either White (35 percent) or Asian American (32 percent) caregivers.
  • Fifty-two percent of Hispanic caregivers report being the sole unpaid caregiver.
  • Caregiver self-rated health seems to have declined during the past five years; alarmingly, the stress associated with caregiving may exacerbate declines in health that occur with age. Four in 10 caregivers (41 percent) consider their health to be excellent or very good, down significantly from 2015 (48 percent).

Undoubtedly, caregiving is a monumental task that deserves our attention. And caregivers need all the help they can get.

To get started, we recommend that you use the AARP Prepare to Care Guide or visit for a list of resources and information on how to start the conversation, form your team, make a plan, and how to care for yourself.[2]  AARP has developed this guide based on input from its members who are over 50 years of age, and from government aging agencies and home health businesses. Latino physicians and healthcare providers also need to become aware of how to help.

This year, Congress (both the House of Representatives and the Senate) introduced “Health Force and Resilience Force Act of 2020”, a bill that proposes a better response to meet the demands of public health emergencies like COVID-19, including training and employing skilled workers to provide public health activities such as teaching safety and testing. However, support is also needed to better support family caregivers.

To learn more about caregiving, visit

[1]Caregiving Among Hispanic Adults. CDC, Feb. 2019.
[2]Prepare to Care: A Planning Guide for Families. AARP Caregiving Resource Center.



November 19, 2020

COVID-19 Leadership for the Future

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated several key issues among the Hispanic population that warrant attention from leaders in both public and private health care sectors, as well as leaders in our communities. Hispanics are 18% of the population yet account for 33% of new COVID-19 cases nationwide.[1]

Hispanics have been found to be more vulnerable because they 1) have the highest uninsured rates, which limits access to health care and increases the impact of chronic diseases; 2) work in essential jobs that increase exposure to infection, such as in supermarkets, cleaning services at hospitals and nursing homes, and in the food industry; 3) live in multigenerational households that limit social distancing; and 4) have mixed-status families and/or limited English and health literacy, both of which decrease their participation in and understanding of public health education guidelines.

Health care leaders should work with their local public health agencies on recovery efforts over the next several years, targeting worksites, neighborhoods and families with Latinos.

With the expectation that scientists will develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine at the end of the year, the National Academies of Medicine, Engineering and Sciences have published a COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan with recommendations that frontline health care personnel and other essential workers, along with those most vulnerable to becoming infected, should be the first to receive the vaccine.[2]  Leaders in our hospitals, medical practices and clinics should partner with any virus education campaigns for Latino families — since Latino uptake of the flu vaccine over the past few years has only been at 37%. It is of the utmost importance to make the connection that a vaccine can decrease virus transmission to those most vulnerable in the community. Latinos who work at all levels of the health care system understand Latinos, and should be called on to share their experience for developing innovations to improve the health of our families.

Education for Latinos must include developing trust and empathy, traditional media and social media in English and Spanish, and health provider messengers. Latinos and other racial and ethnic patients have faced racism and discrimination in the health care system. There is a need to understand the root causes of health care disparities seen in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, HIV, asthma and other conditions. Some of these issues are due to social determinants of health, such as unemployment, food insecurity, poor housing, limited public transportation, poverty, educational attainment and English proficiency. In addition, Latinos also face limited access to quality care, limited mental health services and lack of diversity in the health care professions, research and decision-making positions in public or private health sectors.

The pandemic has significantly undermined health insurance coverage in the U.S. as the economic impact has forced businesses to close and eliminate health insurance, or stay open and decrease health insurance benefits for employees.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 31 million were uninsured and more than 40 million were underinsured before the pandemic. In 2019, according to national surveys, prior to the pandemic, the Hispanic population had the highest uninsured rate, at 16.7% uninsured for the entire year. Among U.S. adults aged 19 to 64 in states with Medicaid expansion, the uninsured rate was 9.8%, compared to 18.4% in the 14 states that did not expand eligibility. In addition, adults with health insurance find it easier to get care, tests, or treatment. Among the uninsured, 34% were Hispanic poor, and and 13% were Hispanic not poor, more than twice the proportion of uninsured non-Hispanic whites.[3] 

During 2020, Hispanic unemployment rose to 19% in the spring and is now about 10%. Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20.2% of Latinas in the labor force were unemployed in April, more than triple the 6% without jobs in March. The unemployment rate for Latinos jumped from 5.1% in March to 16.7% in April.[4] With the continued U.S. economic downturn and loss of jobs, many more people will become uninsured and stay away from testing, medical care and treatment.

Leaders in the Federal government need to provide incentives to increase health insurance for our population, including subsidies and tax credits; expanding Medicaid funding to States and to individuals (public option) and the undocumented; expanding mental health services and reimbursement; and provide low priced inhalers, insulin, diabetes and hypertension medications, along with free testing, masks, and vaccines. At the same time, leaders in the public and in the private sector — philanthropy, corporations and institutions — should support nonprofit organizations to provide food and other basics for our families and mentor our students to attend college and become doctors and nurses. We invite all the leaders in our communities to work with the National Hispanic Medical Association and our network of physicians for leadership development training to improve the health of our communities.

[1] Demographic trends of COVID-19 in the US reported to the CDC. Atlanta: CDC, 2020.
[2]COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan, NASEM, Washington, DC, Oct. 2020.
[3] US Census Bureau. Health Insurance Coverage in the United States 2019. Sept. 22, 2020.
[4] Bureau of Labor Statistics. Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey.


Today the National Hispanic Medical Association informed the leader of the Customs and Border Protection Agency of the Department of Homeland Security about our strong concerns about the treatment of immigrants who are being detained for their Refugee/Documentation hearings.

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of the Inspector General released its findings today from inspections of five Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities in south Texas in June. DHS found squalid conditions in several detention centers for migrant families and children in Texas, including serious overcrowding, minors going without hot meals for days, lack of clean clothes, and flu outbreaks. “We are concerned that overcrowding and prolonged detention represent an immediate risk to the health and safety of DHS agents and officers, and to those detained,” the report said.

Under a 1997 court judgment referred to as the Flores settlement, the U.S. government is required to provide a certain level of humane care to children in its custody, including that any facility must be “safe
and sanitary.”  Flores requires that immigrant children “accompanied” by parents have to be released within 20 days. Due to the backlog and the immense numbers of immigrants, the detention centers have become overcrowded and unhealthy and very stressful for all involved.

We are very concerned and need more physician volunteers to provide care for our communities in Federal Detention Centers at the Border. If you or colleagues are interested — send us your name and contact information to Wanda Salcedo at [email protected].