Los Angeles Times Highlights Area Clinics Targeting Immigrants, Low-Income Minorities
The Los Angeles Times this week published two articles about health clinics that specialize in care to minority populations. Summaries appear below.
- Chagas disease: The Olive View clinic at the University of California-Los Angeles Medical Center is the "first clinic in the country devoted to studying and treating Chagas disease," an illness that has been the leading cause of heart failure in Latin America and has started to affect U.S. immigrant communities, the Los Angeles Times reports. Chagas disease, a parasitic illness that is passed to humans from an insect, over time can cause fatal damage to the heart and intestines. The illness also can be passed from human to human through blood transfusions or organ transplants. It also can be passed to children during birth, which has been the main source of transmission in Latin America. By the end of October, 253 people in 30 U.S. states had tested positive for Chagas, according to the American Association of Blood Banks. Most of those with the illness emigrated from high-risk areas or are the children of such immigrants, Susan Stramer, executive scientific officer for the American Red Cross, said. There is no FDA-approved drug to treat the disease, and the only two treatments known to be effective must be obtained directly from CDC. Sheba Meymandi, director of Olive View, said, "We really, really need to become more aware of the potential of this disease in our Latin American population because the long-term outcome is pretty horrific," adding, "If I can prevent someone from developing heart failure, which if they do will tax the system even more, that's my job" (Engel, Los Angeles Times, 11/6).
- UMMA clinic: The UMMA clinic in South Los Angeles has become a "national model" for delivering high-quality care to largely low-income, underserved minority residents, the Los Angeles Times reports. UMMA is an acronym for the University Muslim Medical Association, the group that founded the clinic, and the name also comes from the Arabic word "ummah," which means community. In addition to its medical services, the clinic sponsors blood drives, helps with tax preparation and undertakes education efforts. The clinic opened in 1996 with an initial two-year, $680,000 operating grant from the city and has been able to continue operation through community fundraisers. Last year, it became a federally qualified health center, enabling it to receive federal funds. Most of the clinic's patients are not Muslim; about 70% are Hispanic, about 25% black and the remainder are white or Asian-American. "If you see something that isn't right, there is an obligation in Islam to try to fix it with your own hands, first of all. That's the highest good," Yasser Aman, president and CEO of the clinic, said (Trounson, Los Angeles Times, 11/3).