The Changing Face of North Carolina
In a word, North Carolina is diverse, from
our unique geography to the people that call the Tar
Heel State home.
Among the many inhabitants, Latinos are the fastest
growing ethnic group, a population which increased
by 400 percent between 1990 and 2000. According to
U.S. Census estimates, more than half a million Latinos
currently live in North Carolina, comprising six percent
of the overall population. The actual number is, undoubtedly,
Native Spanish speakers are significant to North Carolina's
landscape, not only culturally but economically. In
2002, Latinos contributed $9 billion in purchases to
the state's economy. They also comprise much
of our workforce, helping to sustain industries vital
to North Carolina’s continued economic growth.
Typically, first generation Latinos living in the
United States are healthier than their English-speaking
counterparts. Recent trends in other states, however,
indicate that health declines with assimilation to
American lifestyle. Coinciding with this, Latinos often
face many additional health challenges including poverty,
dangerous occupations, unsanitary living conditions
as well as cultural and language barriers to care.
As health advocates, we are responsible for the well-being
of all North Carolinians regardless of race,
ethnicity, religion or immigration status. And while
Title VI assures equal access to care under the law,
proactive measures must be taken to ensure Spanish
speakers are effectively and appropriately served.
This means moving beyond translating existing health
messages to incorporating phrases and images tailored
to the audience’s specific needs. What is appropriate
for native North Carolinians is, in many cases, irrelevant
and even confusing for Latinos.
Additionally, many foreign-born residents need assistance
understanding our healthcare system and practices,
which can vary greatly from what they are accustomed.
New concepts can include consistent preventative health
care and appropriate use of emergency rooms, among
And while some Latinos cannot access public services
as a result of immigration status, their American-born
children are eligible. In many cases, however, parents
need assistance identifying and accessing what is available.
The bilingual NC Family Health Resource Line (1-800-367-2999)
is an excellent resource, providing guidance for individuals
as well as community workers and health advocates.
At the North Carolina Healthy Start Foundation, we
have recently launched a new Spanish language version
of our Web site www.nchealthystart.org/enespanol,
providing detailed information pertaining to infant
mortality, women’s health, child care and children’s
health insurance programs.
In short, by helping Spanish speakers overcome systemic
barriers related to care, we are benefiting not only
a specific population, but the health of our entire
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