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Newsmonger: Got hope? Bexar health statistics still unequal, Innocence case gaining traction

Photo: Michael barajas, License: N/A

Michael barajas

Anna Vasquez

Got hope? Bexar health statistics still unequal

UT Health Science Center's Center for Medical Humanities celebrated 10 years of being a voice of "compassion in medicine" with a shocking look at the still-yawning race-related gaps in health care in Bexar County. Dr. Anil Mangla flew point on a panel of experts that included the CEO of Methodist Healthcare Ministries and state Senator Leticia Van De Putte, but it was most telling that the director of epidemiology introduced his findings by explaining how he had grown up in Apartheid South Africa — no stranger to race-based disparities here. In fact, the most recent data shows that Bexar County has twice the number Hispanic diabetics as white, and that those Hispanic diabetics are again twice as likely as their white counterparts to suffer diabetes-related amputations. While blacks and Hispanics sit at the top of the obesity chart (with 53 percent and 40 percent, respectively), those classified as white saw an obesity rate of 26 percent. Among teens, however, Hispanics are again in the lead, with a 37 percent obesity rate.

"What disturbing data," said Methodist CEO Kevin Moriarty. "It hasn't changed in a lot of years, but it has the ability to change." Saying we need to move beyond politicized Left/Right thinking, he tossed out an idea: consolidate the 16 school districts "created by segregation" into only a handful to bring health education to an equal level. "If we put it in a political framework we'll never get anywhere," he said. "We need to put it in terms of what's right."

On that point — and speaking from a neighborhood that has the highest teen dropout and pregnancy rates, as well as diabetes — Senator Van De Putte spoke of the chokehold of poverty. Interestingly, when the panel was surveyed as to what the single most important change would be to affect these numbers, Mangla spoke of teaching better behavior. Moriarty narrowed that down to "education." Another refined further, saying "educate the girl." The next: "Women." ("If you educate the woman, you educate the whole family.") At the far end of the table, Van De Putte got the final word — bucking the trend. "Poverty," she answered. "Even with the greatest education system if your family is poor it does not allow for that hope. … If they have no hope, they are incapable of making good decisions. It's almost like they're paralyzed."

Innocence case gaining traction

Elizabeth Ramirez, Anna Vasquez (above), Cassandra Rivera, and Kristie Mayhugh were accused of unspeakable things. Ramirez's nieces, then ages 7 and 9, claimed a week-long stay at their aunt's one-bedroom West Side apartment in July 1994 devolved into an orgy-like nightmare. The girls told authorities the women held them down by their wrists and ankles, repeatedly violating them. The women threatened to kill them and their families if they ever squealed, they claimed.

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