According to the Census Bureau, 25.1% of the entire Texas population is without health insurance, which is the highest in the nation and growing. Texas’ rapidly growing population has a propensity to obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. As the Hispanic population is projected to be the majority of Texas’ population by 2026, Texas faces a real dilemma in providing adequate health care to its residents. The health of Texas economically, educationally, culturally and socially depends on the physical and mental health of its population.
Increasing obesity is associated with population growth, population aging, race and ethnic shifts and on-going lifestyle changes. In 2040, it is projected that 64% of the Hispanic population will be obese. A minimum of 75% of all Texans are projected to be overweight or obese in 2040. One of the most staggering statistics is 42% of Texas fourth graders were obese in 2005. The highest prevalence of obesity was in Hispanic boys in fourth and eleventh grade in 2005. Obesity also increases one’s risk of acquiring costly chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and stroke.
These numbers indicate that Texas is facing a serious health crisis and possible resulting economic crisis. Obesity cost Texas businesses an estimated $3.3 billion in 2005. This figure includes the cost of health care, absenteeism, decreased productivity, and disability. By 2025, obesity and obesity-related illnesses could cost Texas businesses $15.8 billion annually. These diseases cost employers- directly in higher health care costs and indirectly through lost productivity when workers are out sick, disabled or simply not functioning up to standard.
By 2025, overweight or obese children will be entering the work force as overweight or obese adults at considerable cost to their employers. All stakeholders- employers, parents, the medical community and government must work together to reduce the number of obese Texans. We must focus on preventing obesity, rather than treating the disease it causes. Healthy lifestyle choices must be developed at an early age and made a mandatory part of our education system. Each dollar spent on disease management programs generates between $1.40 and $13.00 in savings. Each dollar spent on wellness programs generates an average savings of $3.48 on health care expenses and $5.82 in reduced absenteeism costs.
One of the major health issues affecting Texans is teen pregnancy. There were 18,090 births to teens ages 15-17 years old in Texas in 2005. Among the 18,090 births, 68% of the mothers were Hispanic. These numbers continue to increase. 18% of teen mothers (age 15-17) who gave birth in Texas in 2005 received no or late prenatal care. 16% of teen births were preterm births and 66% of these preterm births were to Hispanic mothers.
Texas Counties with the Highest Teen Pregnancy Rate
County Pregnancies per 1,000 women ages 15-17
Dawson County 90.3
Zavala County 85.9
Zapata County 84.5
Frio County 74.2
Jim Wells County 68.0
Latinas and AIDS
Latinas account for one out of every five new cases of HIV and Latina women are about five times more likely to contract HIV than Anglo women. Hispanics are the fastest growing population in the United States at risk for HIV infection. For Latina women living with HIV/AIDS, the most common methods of transmission were high-risk heterosexual contact and drug use. In 2006, HIV was the fifth leading cause of death for Latinas ages 25-44. About 1 in 3 of almost 12 million women in Texas is Latina.
Cultural factors play a significant part in the high rates of HIV among Hispanics and Latinas. There are cultural barriers that can prevent access to adequate health care and access to testing for Latina women. More research needs to be done on how significant these cultural barriers are for Latinas and what significant role they play in prevention.
With increased access to free HIV testing, health fairs in communities that break down the stigma of testing, and free and accessible testing on all Texas university and college campuses, we can begin to address the Latina AIDS crisis in Texas.
Gains Made in Previous Sessions
81st Legislative Session:
- SB 870: This bill expands the obesity council’s duties to include the creation of an evidence-based public health awareness plan. The legislation also requires the Health and Human Services Commission and the Department of State Health Services to establish an obesity prevention pilot program in one or more health care service regions in the state.
- HB1990: The bill requires the Health and Human Services Commission to implement and report on a diabetes self-management training pilot program that will provide diabetes self-management training to selected Medicaid PCCM and free-for-service clients who had diabetes and were enrolled in the disease management program.