MILWAUKEE — Hispanics are the largest and fastest-growing minority racial and ethnic population in Wisconsin, but according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, they also have the highest uninsured rates of any other group in the U.S.
Maria Barker has worked at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin for 39 years. She currently serves as the Director of LatinX Programs and Initiatives.
"Approximately 35-37% of the Latino population in Wisconsin is uninsured," said Barker.
People without healthcare insurance often avoid going to the doctor, usually because of the cost of care, but for some Latinos, language barriers also play a role.
"For people who have a challenge with language access, for people who are just arriving to the United States from countries that typically see people on a walk-in basis, it is a system very new," said Barker.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin works hard to not only provide healthcare for everyone whether or not they have insurance. They also provide culturally relevant services and language access.
"Language line service is a phone interpretation service that people have a right to. It's not just if a healthcare entity wants to provide it, it's the law," said Barker.
Barker says that's a good resource, but perhaps not the best. In her opinion, another great option is hiring someone who, not only knows and understands the culture, but also speaks the language like a promotores de salud.
"We hire them as private consultants to reach the networks and the communities and the neighborhood they live in with information not only pertinent to healthcare, but civic engagement as well," said Barker.
When it comes to women's health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the maternity mortality rate for Latino women jumped sharply in 2020 up 44% from the year before. Stats also show that 61% of Hispanic mothers are a part of the workforce and juggle multiple roles including caring for aging parents.
"We try to talk to women and help them understand the importance of taking some time out of their busy schedule to care for their well-being," said Barker.
Barker's ultimate goal is to make sure people know their value, how to lift their voices, and how to seek out community resources available to them.