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Doctor in the House

Addressing the health needs of Latinas

By Rep. Yadira Caraveo

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When I served Coloradans as their doctor, I asked my patients: “¿Cómo puedo ayudarte?”
I wasn’t just offering my help in the patients’ first language, I was trying to connect with them, acknowledging that in many ways, I have lived firsthand the cultural barriers that Latinos face in our country when looking for healthcare.

Latinos are the fastest growing population in our country; yet our interests and needs are far too often underrepresented and disregarded. I saw this happening in the clinic: The language barriers that make it difficult for patients to verbally describe their struggles, the financial burden that comes with getting the right medication with the prescribed doses, the desperate need for patients to have doctors that look like them and speak like them so that they can establish a doctor-patient relationship built on trust.

All of these are problems that cannot be fixed with prescription drugs or medical treatment.
As much as I loved practicing medicine, I needed to address these issues in Congress, where important and impactful decisions are being made to set the path forward towards affordable and accessible healthcare.

When I arrived in Washington D.C. I was eager to address these issues that I heard in the clinic, and that I saw firsthand growing up as the only Latina in many rooms from my early years of education all the way to my most recent years at the Colorado Legislature.

In the 118th Congress, set to be the most unproductive in modern history due to extreme Republicans causing chaos and dysfunction, I am rising to the occasion and tackling the issues that pushed me to legislate on these critical issues for our communities.

I addressed the next wave of the drug crisis, with a bipartisan bill that brings attention to xylazine (or tranq), an animal tranquilizer that is being used with fentanyl and has been linked to an increasing number of overdose deaths across the country. My bipartisan TRANQ Research Act will confront the drug crisis head on by compelling additional research into illicit drugs like xylazine. I am incredibly proud that this bipartisan bill was signed into law by President Biden in December of last year, as one of the 34 bills that made it through both chambers last year.

I introduced the bipartisan Prescription Drug Supply Chain Transparency Act. This bill will tackle high prescription drug costs by pushing for a more transparent supply chain that will help us identify and tackle the factors that contribute to the high costs that stand between patients and the medications they need.

I presented a bipartisan resolution to establish October 1st as National Latino and Latina Physician Day with Rep. Raul Ruiz M.D. from California, to draw attention and awareness to the many health professionals that break the language and cultural barriers in order to provide healthcare services to our Latino communities.

I tackled the nationwide healthcare workforce shortage with my bipartisan Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, which authorizes physicians and nurses in the U.S. on temporary visas to adjust to permanent status, enhancing the quality and resilience of America’s healthcare workforce.

I took action on the shortage of physicians practicing in rural communities with my bipartisan Rural Residency Planning and Development Act of 2024. This bill would authorize the Rural Residency Planning and Development program to continue building a strong pipeline of rural physicians for years to come. Latinos in rural America deserve to have access to high-quality healthcare without having to travel great distances to receive the care they need.

In the current political climate where there is so much division, chaos, and polarization around nearly every issue we can think of, I am proud to present these legislative actions to Congress that address the healthcare issues of our communities. I am grateful to my colleagues from both parties who are supporting my bills and pushing for commonsense solutions to bring accessible and affordable healthcare for Latinos across the country.

“Sin salud no hay nada,” is what my mom would say after making some caldo de pollo for me and my siblings when we all lived under the same roof in my beloved snowy Colorado. We forget how important health is for us to wake up in the morning, get in the shower, and do the most basic activities that we need to get done throughout the day.

But as Latinos, getting the tools we need to live a healthy life requires overcoming several obstacles, obstacles that only those of us who have experienced them firsthand can understand.

I am the first Latina doctor in Congress, because my parents worked very hard to become citizens and provide me with the education that I wanted in order to live my version of the American Dream. But if Latinos are the fastest growing population in the country, one that is set to make up 29% of the US population by 2050, we need to see more doctors that look like us, healthcare systems that truly benefit us and our unique needs, and more legislators that will represent the working class values of Latinos in the United States.

I am looking forward to the work ahead.

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