In the Spotlight

Helping Puerto Rico Get to Normal After Hurricane María by Jamie Muñez, RHEC II Emerging Professional

posted Aug 28, 2018, 9:18 AM by daniel yoo   [ updated Aug 28, 2018, 9:32 AM ]

It has been 10 months since Hurricane Maria touched down; since then, the people of Puerto Rico have been in an uphill battle getting back to normalcy. They are now one month into the 2018 hurricane season, and many fear that, if another hurricane hits, they never will be able to recover. Recently, they have been dealing with the lack of physicians. On top of that, the doctors who remain on the island lack funds and resources to help the people.

The low number of physicians was an issue for the island before Hurricane María hit, mainly because the hospitals’ budgets did not allow them to offer reasonable pay to their staff. Many doctors had to make a choice to stay on the island and work without much resources, funding, and pay or to move to the states and have access to more not only for their patients but their families as well. According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Puerto Rico, the number of doctors went from 14,000 to 9,000 from 2006 to 2016. Even though the rate of unemployed people has increased, it is still far below the rate from previous years in all sectors. In June, there were 852,000 employed residents; that is 31,200 less than last year’s June rate, and the continuous drop in employment has created a strain on the island’s economy.

One of the main issues that the Island faces is health care. Although most of the island’s residents are on Medicaid and not private insurance, the funding they receive is approximately one third of the allocation that the 50 states receive. Even though the island gets less than the states, the cost of medication and equipment is the same, and residents contribute to the Medicaid fund.

The Affordable Care Act would have been a way for people to get the care that they need, but Puerto Rico was excluded from the benefits in the program. As of now, Puerto Ricans must work with Programa Mi Salud (Medicaid), most especially children and the elderly. With the high poverty rate, many residents depend on Medicaid, but they do not receive the same benefits from program as those in the 50 states. Whereas a person who needs home care would be covered under the Medicaid program and would get the assistance that they need at home or be placed in an assistance home in the states, in Puerto Rico, they would get access to medicine, but someone close to them would need to care of them. This job would fall under the care of their child or a sibling, and it can be costly and both physically and mentally exhausting.

With power still down for most, people need to find ways to keep necessary medicine fresh through creative means. In cases where patients rely on electricity to stay alive, family members are finding ways to power their homes on their own. This is just one of many issues with which the people are dealing there; suicide rates have risen in the past few months, and people are losing hope that it will get better anytime soon.

The Virgin Islands, also hit by the hurricane, have been able to get back their tourism which has helped their economy. However, because of the lack of power and clean water, Puerto Rico has not been able to resume tourism; this has only hurt their economy even more. Even though they can receive hurricane help from federal programs, because they have not been able to pay their workers, the funding they can receive cannot be disbursed to organizations that could provide relief. Beyond this, the commonwealth is struggling to pay creditors due to decades of corruption and inefficiency.

One way to help is to get volunteers out to distribute clean water and food, as residents have gone months without fresh meat or vegetables, and helping them regrow their stock can help reduce the need to spend money on food from outside sources. They also need doctors back on the island; even temporary outside help will reduce wait times and help get more people the care they need. The island’s financial problem will not be solved anytime soon, but if we step up and help in other areas, then Puerto Ricans can begin to recover and recoup what they have lost.

ASTHO Webinar: Integrating Health Equity into Funding Opportunity Announcements

posted Jan 24, 2018, 7:06 AM by Tech Support   [ updated Jan 24, 2018, 7:06 AM ]

Date: Tuesday, February 20 
Time: 2 p.m.–3 p.m. EST 

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), with support from the HHS Office of Minority Health, will host a webinar for public health professionals involved in programming to advance health equity or in the grant-making process based on its guide for integrating health equity language into funding announcements. 

Objectives for this webinar are to: 
  • Describe federal leadership on state/regional health equity initiatives; 
  • Provide specific examples of how a state health agency has incorporated health equity language into its funding announcements; and 
  • Describe the new tool for health equity developed by ASTHO and the HHS Office of Minority Health. 
For more information and to register:

Abstracts Sought by January 12 for Atlanta BRFSS Training Workshop

posted Jan 8, 2018, 9:46 AM by Tech Support   [ updated Jan 8, 2018, 9:46 AM ]

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Conference Committee is encouraging the submission of abstracts for a presentation or poster for the BRFSS Training Workshop, April 9–13 in Atlanta, Georgia. The submission deadline is Friday, January 12. Notifications of accepted presentations will be sent by Friday, February 16. 

Click on the link below for additional information and abstract guidelines. This is a great opportunity to increase the visibility of the great work that you are doing.

The Region II Health Equity Council (RHEC II) Hosting An Open House Webinar For Interested Applicants

posted Dec 16, 2016, 2:11 PM by Tech Support   [ updated Feb 27, 2017, 1:26 PM ]

RHEC II is hosting an open house webinar, during which interested applicants can learn more about the Council. The open house will take place on January 18, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. ET. RHEC II is currently seeking committed and dedicated individuals in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the USVI from a variety of sectors to join the council. RHEC II plays a critical role in coordinating and enhancing state and local efforts to address health disparities and the social determinants of health at the regional level.

Learn more and register for the webinar by clicking on the link below.

To join the webinar, please click:

To join by phone, call 1-866-614-9449. No passcode is needed. 

RHEC II releases Improving Health Data Infrastructure for the US Virgin Islands Report

posted Dec 5, 2016, 3:17 PM by Tech Support   [ updated Feb 27, 2017, 1:26 PM ]

The report highlights the need to expand the collecting and reporting of US Virgin Islands (USVI) health data.Current USVI data registries often are lacking, with search engines providing only minimal data. RHEC II is calling on federal agencies to partner with entities within the USVI to address the lack of complete datasets. 

View/Download Improving Health Data Infrastructure for the US Virgin Islands Report below

Work-Able Summer Health Institute and RHEC II Collaborate for ‘In a Healthy Community: The Library Matters’ Program

posted Oct 21, 2016, 11:32 AM by Tech Support   [ updated Feb 27, 2017, 1:26 PM ]

The fourth annual Work-Able Summer Health Institute, in collaboration with the Regional Health Equity Council for Region II (RHEC II), hosted at the Charles Wesley Turnbull Regional Public Library on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, was held July 25 – August 12, 2016. The three-week life skills,employability skills and career exploration program encouraged the youth, 14 and 15 year olds, to explore health and health careers (personally, professionally and as a community member), and to develop a close relationship with the Library.

View/download the report below.

New York’s Community Listening Sessions Tap Place-Based Knowledge of Health Needs

posted Aug 22, 2016, 9:50 AM by Tech Support   [ updated Feb 27, 2017, 1:27 PM ]

The New York State Department of Health, Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, and the New York State Minority Health Council convened community listening sessions in New York State in 2015, in areas legislatively defined as minority areas. These are areas with 40 percent, or greater, racial and ethnic populations – which bear a disproportionate burden of poor health. The listening sessions provided a platform for community members to voice their concerns on health and access to health care, and allowed public health officials to listen to the concerns of residents. See some of the results and efforts to date.

HIV/AIDS Among Black Women and Girls: Understanding the Context of Their Lives to Provide Effective Interventions by Dr. Ivy Turnbull

posted Apr 26, 2016, 7:19 AM by Tech Support   [ updated Feb 27, 2017, 1:27 PM ]

The National Black Women’s HIV/AIDS Network (NBWHAN) is a coalition of HIV positive and negative black women and girls that came together to provide a voice and representation for black women with HIV/AIDS. One of our main focus areas is calling for interventions that take into consideration the context of black women’s lives, as well as providing recommendations to health officials and leadership in local, state and federal government to address this public health crisis. To view/download the full article please see below.

RHEC II Raises Awareness of 2015 National Minority Health Month

posted Apr 15, 2015, 12:49 PM by Tech Support   [ updated Feb 27, 2017, 1:27 PM ]

The Region II Health Equity Council (RHEC II) is working diligently to get the word out about the 2015 National Minority Health Month theme, 30 Years of Advancing Health Equity; The Heckler Report: A Force for Ending Health Disparities in America. One RHEC II member has published a blog post about this year’s theme, while other RHEC members have been working with local and state-level officials throughout New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to proclaim the 2015 National Minority Health Month theme. To date, the Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Mayor of New Brunswick, New Jersey, and the RHEC II Co-Chairs have signed and issued RHEC II’s Proclamation.

The signed Proclamations are available for download below, and the Proclamation signed by the RHEC II Co-Chairs is available in both English and Spanish.

Bright Futures: Young Leaders Gain Skills at Work-Able Summer Health Institute

posted Oct 28, 2014, 1:37 PM by Tech Support   [ updated Feb 27, 2017, 1:28 PM ]

Ten young people, ages 14 to 15, participated in the St. Thomas Work-Able Summer Health Institute, sponsored by the Region II Health Equity Council, the Virgin Islands Department of Labor, the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums of the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the University of the Virgin Islands Caribbean Exploratory Research Center and the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network.

The three-week program imparted valuable skills for life and career, and allowed youth to explore professions in three primary fields: technology, library science, and public health. Program mentors assisted the participants in drafting cover letters, to help them secure job-shadowing or after-school experiences that would enable them to earn community service hours. Following the Work-Able Summer Health Institute, RHEC II member Gwendolyn Powell published an article in the St. Thomas Source, highlighting this successful model for youth employability. Click on the pdf below to view Gwendolyn Powell's article.

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