Inequities in the Latinx community: Workers face high poverty, low wages and lack of health care

People in Fort Lauderdale gather together to ask the McDonald’s corporation to raise pay to a $15 minimum wage, as well as demanding the right to a union. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Latinx communities around the nation are vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic because of a lack of health care access, higher poverty levels and working conditions that put them more at risk of being infected by COVID-19, a panel of public health experts said Wednesday.

The American Heart Association’s Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative between AHA and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, hosted a video conference to discuss racial inequities that contribute to higher rates of infection among Latinx people.

In the United States, COVID-19 has a disproportionate impact on Latinx communities, said Eduardo Sanchez, AHA’s chief medical officer for prevention.

Public health experts on the panel pointed to Latinx adults plagued with higher rates of medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity and certain forms of cancer, making them more susceptible to COVID-19 infections.

“All of this is making them more at risk for the virus itself,” said Amelie Ramirez, director of Salud America! at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio.

In addition, Latinx people often work jobs with low wages and lack proper health care, according to public health experts.

“They are overrepresented in high contact jobs such as food, retail, the health industry; they are the ones cleaning up our hospitals. And many of these jobs are hourly jobs that come without paid leave,” Ramirez said.

“Latinos are already faced with language and health care access barriers,” she added.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, more than seven in 10 (71 percent) Hispanic people live in Southern and Western states identified as COVID-19 hotspots.

Florida is among the states in the South considered as a hotspot, with more than 450,000 COVID-19 infections.

At the video conference, Ramirez responded to a question from the Florida Phoenix. She told the Phoenix that “Florida has been the home of a large number of immigrants” who are vulnerable to the virus, and that “we need to look at the impacts that a lot of the inequities have on this community.”

Solutions to address inequities among Latinx people include “increase income, reduce poverty, improve working conditions, address systemic racism and discrimination, and ensure health equity is a component of recovery,” Ramirez said during the video conference.