Healthy Living: Expanding health services to Hispanic and Latinx communities

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Health and wellness have taken on special importance as we navigate the pandemic, but for some, finding equal access is not always easy.

As part of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 - Oct. 15), we are taking a look at the challenges faced by the Hispanic and Latinx communities in Western Washington.

Dr. Julian Perez, a specialist in Family and Sports Medicine at Sea Mar Community Health Center, explains the disparities in care and how they can be broken.

"Our clinics take care of the underserve folks, uninsured, Medicaid, immigrants, and refugees," he said. "And for that population, COVID is the #1 health issue right now.  And that may or may not be agreed upon by the community we serve.  You talk with them, their main concerns are rent, can I get to work, who is going to take care of my kid? … my wife is pregnant and I need to get her to the hospital - how am I going to get her there? These are very real-world, tangible challenges and barriers to health and wellbeing that our patients face on a day-to-day basis."

Dr. Perez says access to care is Sea Mar's primary mission.

"We have probably 35 or so medical clinics up and down the I-5 corridor in Western Washington. And what we did at the very outset of this pandemic as we did not close our doors, the CDC and the federal government said ‘please, federally qualified Health Centers - stay open, continue to serve the primary care and preventive care needs of the community.’" Dr. Perez said. "And that mission is what has given us the trust of the community. So now, even today when people need a vaccine. They can come to our clinics. Anyone, in the appointment, walk right in and say, ‘Please vaccinate me.’ We will offer them any of the three FDA-approved vaccines - either the Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, or Pfizer vaccine. We give them a little bit of counseling if they need it, and we will recommend the one that's best for their family and up for them."

Dr. Perez said Sea Mar has given almost 300,000 shots in arms since the vaccines became available.

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