York County to host second statewide Latino Health Summit

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch

The York Expo Center will be home to the second statewide Latino Health Summit, which this year will assess healthcare issues within the growing population and connect its thousands of local residents with medical professionals.

Latino activists and government officials at the state and local levels announced the two-day summit during a Tuesday, Feb. 19, news conference. It will take place from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 17-18.

The event is a collaborative effort among Latino Connection, a Lancaster-based organization serving the Latino community; the Pennsylvania Department of Health; the Governor's Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs; and York City.

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Latino Connection CEO George Fernandez said the goal of the summit is to "ensure Latino Americans in Pennsylvania have access to affordable health care and understand what they need to do to get access."

"It's this balance of socioeconomic synergies that all Americans deserve: to live, work, play and to thrive," he said.

Here in York County, the Latino population is growing rapidly. Between 2000 and 2014, it grew 155 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The county is 7.5 percent Latino, while  York City is 31.7 percent Latino.

A report from USA Today and 24/7 Wall Street last year that ranked Pennsylvania as the second-worst state for Hispanics and Latinos put an emphasis on the issue of health care access, Fernandez said. In 2019, the state is ranked fourth.

Additional problems within the Latino community were noted in the 2017 York County Hispanic and Latino Community Assessment that was released last year. It was conducted by the Arthur J. Glatfelter Institute for Public Policy at York College, along with United Way of York.

The report detailed a lack of trust in government among the Latino community, a lack of services available to them and an unemployment rate of 50 percent.

This year's summit, sponsored by Aetna, a managed health care company, and WellSpan Health, will be the successor to last year's event in Lancaster. That summit brought in more than 400 people from 30 different counties and five other states.

But York County's summit will be longer and have more resources, including hundreds of medical professionals and vendors, as well as the introduction of teaching workshops and fitness activities.

Latinos Unidos Chairman Lou Rivera speaks as community leaders gather to announce details for the 2019 Latino Health Summit during a press conference at the Appell Center for the Performing Arts in York City, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. The City of York will host the second annual Latino Health Summit and Expo at York Expo Center April 17-18. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The first day of the summit will focus on educating the Latino population about health care and providing medical services through the medical professionals and participating vendors. The second day will include physical activities such as yoga.

Free transportation for York County seniors will be provided by Senior LIFE, a local health care program.

Lou Rivera, chairman of the local nonprofit Latino advocacy organization Latino Unidos, was credited by Fernandez for floating the idea of bringing the event to York County.

"The event will bring a much-needed perspective of not only the York Latino community, but also of the community as a whole," Rivera said.

Mayor Michael Helfrich, echoing the importance of such an event, said the city also is working to enhance its services to the Latino community through the hiring of Spanish-speaking employees in government positions and ensuring equal access to health care.

"When one person or one group is not getting everything they need to be their best, then we are not at our best," Helfrich said.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.