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5th Annual Ladies Health Symposium Dicusses Disparities

The 5th Annual Los Angeles and Orange County First Ladies Health Luncheon symposium was held by the First Ladies Health Initiative at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills on Nov. 21. The event aimed to provide discussion on social and health awareness to Southern California’s minorities.

Sponsored by Walgreens, highlights of the forum included numerous prominent guests, along with United States Congresswoman Maxine Waters and actress Loretta Devine as keynote speakers.

The upscale event also featured a panel of minority health experts, advocates, and survivors. They discussed a range of topics, from HIV and AIDS within African American communities to how pre-screening and testing could benefit minority communities by stopping the spread of disease.

Congresswoman Waters was the honorary First Lady and was tasked with opening the program. During her speech, she bluntly emphasized statistics on minority communities’ struggles with chronic illnesses.

“According to the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], Africans Americans are the racial group most affected by HIV,” Waters told the crowd. “New HIV infections in African Americans are 8 times that of whites based on population size.”

Waters also added other sobering statistics related to minority health, saying, “In 2010, African American women accounted for 29% of the estimated new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans and Latinos account for 21% of new HIV infections, although only 16% of the population is Latino.”

The symposium opens up a discussion on many issues the United States faces with health care. Over 80% of American adults no longer meet the recommendations for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. This statistic isn’t helped by how difficult finding answers to medical questions has become.

In fact, it has become so difficult that a new industry of private health advocates has risen: health care consultants. These are professionals who help patients understand their own health situations and can aid patients in finding suitable treatments.

Delinah Hurwitz, a Los Angeles resident, hired Dr. Valerie Ulene and Byrdie Lifson Pompan as her health care consultants. The two also founded Clear Health Advisors.

Hurwitz’s decided to come to Clear Health Advisors after an issue with the diagnosis of her brain tumor. Doctors misdiagnosed her, telling her the wrong type of tumor.

“Our job really is to confirm [our patient’s] diagnosis, identify the most appropriate specialist for their diagnosis and then educate them on their treatment options,” said Pompan. “We’re in a culture that has been trained not to question our doctors.”

Pompan adds that Clear Health Advisors are attempting to change this long-held belief. As many as 30% of medical diagnoses are inaccurate or incomplete according to the BMJ Quality and Safety Journal.

“It’s the third leading cause of death in our country,” Pompan said. “Medical error.”

While organizations such as the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants and the Alliance of Professional Healthcare Advocates make it easy to find consultants to help, advocates say patients should be careful when making their decision.

According to the California Department of Insurance reports that health care consultants are still unregulated, so patients run the risk of abuse by choosing this route.

“One of the big ones is if a consultant was referring a doctor and getting a kickback,” consumer attorney Stuart Talley said. “If there’s no rules or laws against that, that could be a huge problem. They could be referring people to doctors that they don’t need.”

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